This is my May post for Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. To read more writers helping other writers, click here.
I’m cheating. I wrote this essay five years ago, when the idea of writing as a focus in my life was new. When I found it a few days ago, I liked it so much; I decided to edit it for IWSG. Back then, I was only writing blog posts. By now, I’ve accomplished more, but this essay feels pure and clean, elemental if you will, and a reminder to cherish the joy. So here you have it…a resurrected post from April 2009.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, sits on my bedside table. It is a library copy, and I admit here in print, I’ve bent down at least five page corners containing things to reread and remember. The other night I was plowing along, marking these inspirational comments because they are real and they teach and they guide, and I came to a quote that stopped me dead. The author didn’t write it. Before she was published, Lamott submitted a short story to what she called, “an important magazine editor,” and the guy sent her a note saying, “You have made the mistake of thinking that everything that has happened to you is interesting.”
Whoa. Big swallow. My blog—all about me. I am experiencing a crisis of faith here, so please bear with me.
You see, I had no conscious plan to start a blog. The first essay poured out of me as a result of the trauma of a sudden elimination of employment. Writing it made me feel whole and relieved, like discovering the last segment of a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle under the couch with the dust bunnies during a good spring cleaning. And so, I kept on.
I look back at some (a lot) of my entries and think, “Yuck,” or “Does anyone really care?” To my credit, sometimes I think, “Wow, I wrote that?” But, it doesn’t matter, because I am so completely in love with the effort, the words that bubble up day after day. Some mornings I approach the computer wondering whether there is anything left to write. But so far, something always spills out of my fingers, and when I’m done I think, this is me on the page as best as I can get it, as honestly, and clearly as I know how to write.
Of course, I hope this practice is helping me to improve, but hear this. I’m just grateful to be doing it. Lamott comments on that horrific response from the editor with the following: “…the note ended up only helping me because it didn’t stop me.” Turning to another folded corner I read this: “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. The thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part.” She's so right. Even harsh criticism is bearable because the thinking, the imagining, the creating, the editing, the revising, the massaging–even the hair pulling, this giving birth to words is, as the author points out, “the best part.”
So, taking a bent page out of Anne Lamott's book, I'm not stopping either.