Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reading Annie

I bought Annie Lamott's book Bird by Bird when I was at the conference and I'm loving it. It's so different from other "how to write" books I've read and flipped through. Some of those seem great, but many of them seem to exist to support the writer, more than anything else.

In true Lamott style, this one is crazy, disorganized, and totally funny. She doesn't talk technique so much (although that's there) as she does about the difficulty of being a writer--the psychological backwash of the whole thing. She has a terrific metaphor in there--that her mind is like a bad neighborhood that she tries not to go into alone at night. So perfect. She deals a lot with insecurities, jealousy, and the "critical brain" that keeps us from writing. It's amazing how much of myself I recognize in this book--especially these days as I begin a new project.

I think maybe the most fun I've had as a writer is finishing up the last book. At some point I suddenly realized I was over the crest and I had an actual book, and the rest was organizing, polishing, adding a poem here and there--that was such satisfying, relaxing work. Now I'm back at the bottom again, beginning the climb. That's fun too, but stressful of course. Every time I write a poem I have the whole "is this even going to work? Everyone's done this before, etc. etc." stuff going through my head. The bad neighborhood I've wandered into. It takes a surprising amount of emotional energy to stay out of that neighborhood and the crack dealers who want to suck me in.

I have started my early morning routine again--getting up at 4:30 and writing. I wrote 4 new poems this week. And now I need to follow Lamott's advice, and be gentle with myself, be happy about progress, in any form. It's 4 poems (regardless of how good or bad they are) that didn't exist in the world before this week. And that's sunny sidewalks and a Starbucks up ahead. That's the neighborhood I want to spend my day in.

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