I was thrilled to see that Anne Lamott would be a speaker for the Des Moines Public Library AVID program this year. Her book, ‘Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life’, has been an essential in my writing reference library. Whenever I need a little motivation, I pull it out. I have had some success with shorter pieces but novel length fiction has eluded me. I have to admit, I find the whole experience intimidating. I crank out 1100 words each month for my article in Women’s Edition without fear but even thinking about writing anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 words can make me freeze. So I try not to think about it. That is what ‘Bird by Bird’, is all about. Anne’s brother had to write a book report about the birds in the area. He didn’t say anything to anyone until the weekend before it was due and then he confessed to his father that he didn’t know how to do it. His father told him to focus on writing about one bird at a time and that is what he did.
I have been struggling with my current project for way too long and I know I have to get going or it will never happen. So far, I have a rough outline of the major plot points and I have written a couple of scenes in the beginning. What stopped me was that after I started writing, I started seeing the holes in my plot that really weren’t there while I was developing it. Well, they were there but I just couldn’t see them until I actually started writing. Instead of concentrating on that single scene, I shifted my vision to the whole story again and my internal editor clicked on to make my writing life difficult again. Even with holes, I know it’s nothing that I can’t fix but it was enough to make me question my ability again. I am not giving up. In fact I have scheduled a long weekend with the intention of spending time specifically working on my novel. I felt a little better when one of my critique partners admitted that she had the same experience with her current work in progress. The fact that she has eight books out already, made me feel better. If she still struggles, it isn’t just me. The big difference is that because she has written so many books already she knows that by pushing forward she will get it done. As I sit down to write, I will focus on one scene at a time until I reach the end.
If you’ve had the urge to write and need some inspiration, I would suggest picking up a copy of Anne’s book. Don’t ask to borrow mine though, I managed to get that original book autographed. It now sits in a special spot on my bookshelf – until the next time I need a little motivation.