Book Review: Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life
For a few weeks now, I’ve been feeling horribly stuck with the novel I’m working on at the moment. It was as if words no longer liked hanging out with me, or even visiting me briefly.
I complained about it to my dear friend and fellow INKling, Damian Jay Clay. Because let’s face it. That’s why writers form communities. We may tell the world, and maybe even ourselves, that we enjoy hanging out with other writers or that we need the group for peer critiquing.
But what we really want–what we really need–is for someone to hold our hand when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves and hopelessly incompetent.
And that’s exactly what Damian did. He told me I wasn’t an idiot or a lost cause but that my brain just needed its word batteries recharged.
So I went on a reading spree to resupply my mind with all the words I could no longer find in there.
As it turns out, Bird by Bird was just what the doctor ordered. Lamott doesn’t really talk about writing. She doesn’t mention deep POV, Mary Sues, dialogue tags, or character arcs. Instead, she tells us about being a writer.
You know, that frustrating yet addictive thing we do?
Lamott knows what it’s like to sit and stare at a blank page when words refuse to come and the only coherent thought you can form is, “What will I cook for dinner tonight?”
The desire to get yourself published and the mistaken belief it will finally make you feel like a real writer instead of a fraud; the despair when a piece you’ve laboured and agonised over is torn to shreds by a well-meaning critiquer and the remains tossed into the air like confetti; Lamott has been there.
She talks about her own struggles and triumphs in a way that is both hilarious and absolutely relatable.
Being a writer is not a hobby but a way to look at the world and document it, enriching, exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It’s such a relief to know you’re not alone in feeling the way you do–that you’re not on your way to becoming the neighbourhood’s crazy cat lady.
My advice? Go out there and find yourself a tribe to commiserate with. And reward yourself for this valiant effort by curling up on the sofa with a glass of red wine and Bird by Bird.
We’re not alone after all.