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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Young Love IWSG May

 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.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The best part - I will remember that!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Thank you for such a wonderful reminder! I, too, am grateful I get to do this. :)

Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

Robin said...

Wow. That was a harsh comment from that editor. I am so glad I wasn't sending any part of my blog off to anyone back in 2010. I am not sure it was that interesting to anyone but me. But it was so Necessary.

I am soooo glad that you didn't quit. I enjoy your blog enormously.

Nick Wilford said...

Yes, we need to focus on what we love doing and remember that everything around is just peripheral. If we are learning, and growing, and loving it, that is the main thing.

Juneta key said...

It just shows you have to take the bad with the good, and make cool aid, lol. Thanks for sharing.
Happy Writings,
Juneta at Writer's Gambit

Julie Musil said...

I loved this book! One of my favorites. She gives you permission to just write fearlessly. I'm glad you won't let anything or anyone stop you.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Brilliant. I'm so glad to hear nothing is going to stop you.
I need to read that book.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Liza,

Good for you that you continued. I had some pretty harsh words in the beginnings of my writings as well.

I had entered the ABNA contest... first time... and actually made it through the pitch round. Then when my crits came through one the reviewers called me an amateur....

HELLO... aren't we all when first starting out? At first I was highly offended then a very kind person from the threads pointed what the true meaning of amateur is and I felt better.

And I continued too. That was back in t 2010 as well. I started writing in 2009 when my business collapsed because of the drop in the economy.

emaginette said...

We all start somewhere and thankfully we all evolve. I'm glad you're hanging in. :-)

Anna from Shout with Emaginette

Unknown said...

Love her book. I just gave my cherished copy to a writer friend. Happy IWSG post day (yesterday!).

Empty Nest Insider said...

That was a huge wake-up call, and I'm glad that it motivated both of you to continue writing. I've heard great things about Bird By Bird. Liza, I applaud you for turning such a negative experience into a positive one!


Susan Flett Swiderski said...

If we enjoy what we're doing, I think we should dig in our heels and keep on doing it, no matter what anyone else says. To be read and appreciated is wonderful, but there's a lot to be said about the sheer joy of playing with words.

I'm glad you're a heel digger-inner. (HA! Made that one up.)

Arlee Bird said...

I completely disagree with Mr. Important Magazine Editor. I happen to think that everything that has happened to everybody is interesting. It's really a matter of how well it's written. The most interesting event in the world can be a complete bore in the hands of a bad writer, whereas the most mundane activity can be deep and fascinating when the writer writes it well. That editor had no vision in my eyes, or he didn't express himself well.

I hope that editor went back to think about his words to come to a better conclusion. Of course this statement may have been taken out of context so that there is more to it. But if this is the extent of the note then I think that kind of discouraging advice has no place coming from an editor. Maybe he was having a lousy day.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Jan Morrison said...

I remember that in Lamott's book and how she turned it into gold. She is my go to gal when I get discouraged and the negative radio station's volume is up too high. Glad you kept trucking too. It is hard some days but it is worth it. I'm entering a tricky part and will get out my Bird by Bird and also bookmark this page so I can keep on keepin on too.