Hello my Seekerville friends. Cate back again. These months just fly by, and suddenly it's my turn to post again. Honestly, it feels like just yesterday that I was chatting with you all about your feelings about craft books.
There was a wide range of thought on the value of craft books for a writer. No surprise there. Our thoughts are as varied as our personalities and our writing styles. One refrain that was oft repeated though was people, who like me, use craft books as a jumping off point to take a new skill and then practice it with our own writing.
After that discussion, I decided to devote some time to discussing some individual books that I love. I can share them with you, and you can tell me if they're new to you or if you know them and have thoughts of your own to share.
As I mentioned above (and in the previous post), I tend to use writing/craft books more as a jumpstart than as something to read through all at once. There is however, one notable exception to that pattern.
|This is the old faithful one I have. |
I've been through multiple copies.
|This is the new version.|
Bird by Bird was one of the very first books on writing that I ever bought. It is also the only one that I have read and reread completely. It was really life-changing for me because reading Anne LaMott's witty, somewhat irreverent, brutally honest reflections on the writing life allowed me to acknowledge that I could still be a writer even if I was not always in love with the process.
Writing is hard work, and Anne LaMott doesn't flinch from that.
But she also gives you ways to help cope when it all seems overwhelming.
One of the best pieces of advice in the book refers to a story from when Anne and her brother were young. He was totally overwhelmed by a school project on birds. She describes how he was sitting at the table, surrounded by piles of books and paper and pencils. Her father came and sat beside him, put his arm around him and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."
It seems so simple, but for the struggling writer or student, Maybe that struck such a chord because I remembered a similar project when my daughter was in 5th grade. We were up until 5 o'clock in the morning because the project was so massive that it overwhelmed her to the point she had no idea where to even begin.
I have quoted that bird by bird solution to many people over the years. In fact, I just offered it to my daughter the other day when she was again feeling overwhelmed with a big project she has to deal with.
Hand in hand with the 'bird by bird" strategy of writing comes advice to write in "one inch picture frames" - another strategy to help the overwhelmed writer's brain.
Have you ever sat down to write but felt totally overwhelmed by the size of the project? Do you find attempting a full length novel to be daunting? If so, this strategy may help you. To quote Anne Lamott, all you have to do is "write down as much as you can see through a one-inch picture frame."
"How do you write three books a year?
One book at a time, one chapter at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time."
In the same vein, Anne Lamott quotes E.L. Doctorow. "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
This reminds me very much of how writers rave about typing on an AlphaSmart because they could only see a very small rectangle of text. The temptation to fiddle was not as great.
Those two pieces of writing advice are in just one chapter of the book. They're the two that have stuck with me even though it's been decades since I first read the book. There is plenty more to keep you inspired.
Because I like to share books I love, I'm offering to give away a copy of Bird by Bird to some lucky reader who is interested. Be sure to let me know in the comments if that is you!
So have you read this book (or any of the author's other books)? Share your thoughts on the book, the advice, or anything else you feel like talking about.
Coffee's on. Let's chat!
Free photos thanks to Pixabay