Ever think something horrible because you’re jealous? Ever feel like a chimpanzee stands a better chance of writing a decent novel? No? Me neither, I was just wondering. My recent bout of depression brought me back to writing about a book I can’t recommend enough to fellow writers, artists, and others like me who don’t have all their shit in one sock.
Until recently when I met other writers I recommended books that addressed the mechanics of writing because that’s what helped me transform a jumbled, clunky manuscript into my first novel. I felt like my mind was on fire for writing this story, if only I could knock the rust off of my grammar and pick up a few quick tricks to hide the messy parts.
But as well as that worked, getting published didn’t turn my life into the ‘happily ever after’ some folks imagined. I haven’t ‘arrived’; hell, I haven’t even left the station. But I didn’t totally understand a lot of that because I thought I was the only writer that felt like my bottle rocket kinda fizzled when it should’ve banged. That’s when I finally took the advice of some fellow writers whose opinion I hadn’t valued because they poo-pooed science fiction out of hand while touting the artistic value of daily journals about their cats (for the record, I like cats and have 2.5 cats as I write). I read the book blue haired old ladies recommended despite their clever disguise.
Enough about my nemeses and their feline fixation; Anne Lemmott’s book, Bird by Bird took me through another writer’s life and helped me laugh at myself for all those times I took little falls and minor setbacks too seriously. She took some pretty nasty feelings I’ve had and shared her own versions of them with a sharply twisted wit that helped me laugh at the boogeyman and step into the dark a little less afraid than before. Her writing class moments demonstrated the evolution of a new writer, eager for fame and fortune, to artists who can drink in the riches of writing itself; of witnessing beauty whether real or imagined and capturing it within the pages of a manuscript.
So that’s it. I loved her book and her views on life in general. To anyone who feels like an ogre for being jealous of others who find success more easily, to anyone who hammers out volumes of their first draft only to wish they’d never touched a keyboard, to all my fellow solitary souls who feel they alone battle inner demons like these to write another line I recommend Bird by Bird.
My ego-meter cycles between self-loathing and Olympic fathead still, but at least I can recognize my faults easier, laugh about them with my pocket therapist, and get on to bigger problems and better writing.