Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Writing Advice

I've spent a ton of time in recent months reading writing books, taking writing courses, and visiting writing sites, and I have found more wonderful advice than I could ever possibly list, or even remember. At times I have felt like I've gone a bit overboard, and I need to take a step back from reading about writing and just focus on the writing itself. That's one reason this A-Z Challenge has been great for me, as it's helped me to become more disciplined about writing every day. I hope I'm able to continue with that discipline once the Challenge is over.

But back to the writing advice, I have to say that there is one book that has resonated with me more than anything else I have read so far, and that book is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I read it recently, and it's not only my favorite writing book, it's one of my favorite books I've ever read.

I've seen this book mentioned on several blogs so I know lots of people have already read it, but I just wanted to share this one paragraph as it really spoke to me, and made me realize that I have been worried about the wrong things with writing. I've worried that if I don't get published immediately I will be a failure, and I've worried that there is no point to what I'm doing if I don't write the next War and Peace or some other masterpiece. But this paragraph made me remember why I started writing in the first place, and it had nothing to do with either of those worries.

"I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. The thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual act of writing - turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward."  ~ Bird by Bird, page xxvi

The idea of writing being its own reward is something I had kind of forgotten about, but it is the absolute truth. Of course, I still want to work towards publication, and that is my goal, but I need to remember that no matter what happens, I will still be doing something I love, which is writing. And that alone is a priceless reward.

Near the end of the book, Ms. Lamott sums her views on writing up, and this paragraph was another one that really resonated with me. I felt like she was describing me here.

"No matter what happens in terms of fame and fortune, dedication to writing is a marching step forward from where you were before, when you didn't care about reaching out to the world, when you weren't hoping to contribute, when you were just standing there doing some job into which you had fallen." ~ Bird by Bird, page 235
I can't imagine a better way to look at writing and, for me at least, it is definitely a "marching step forward."

This book is the best writing advice I've ever received, as it made me remember that the writing itself is what really matters, and whatever writing I'm doing is okay. It doesn't have to be the next masterpiece, or the next NYT bestseller (although I'd sure like it to be!) to matter. If it's a blog post about Count Von Count, that matters too. ;)

It's fun and I love doing it, and that's reward enough. I'm really grateful to Ms. Lamott for reminding me of this, and I know I will return to her book again and again. To anyone who hasn't read it, I can't recommend it enough. 


  1. A good W word and very good to read.

    Thanks for the comment,

  2. This challenge has been very motivating for writing every day. I really like Bird by Bird, it's a great book for writing.

  3. Julie, that is my favorite writing book as well, along with Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. This is a wonderful post and a great reminder for me about why I write. Thank you.

  4. Anne Lamott is my writing hero and Bird by Bird changed my life! She is so wise and down to earth - and funny!
    Great post.

  5. This is very true, and how it is to forget about it and to get lost in the usual nuances!
    - andrea

  6. I'm always looking for good books on writing. I'll definitely check it out. I need to keep her advice in mind. I forget to enjoy the writing.

  7. i love Bird by Bird. Lamott's advice really helped me set goals for myself. I also liked Stephen King's On Writing, but I found Lamott more practical.

  8. Bird by Bird is one of my absolute favorites. She's so down to earth about writing--I always find it inspiring to read.

  9. Loved the advice! 100% agree. Writing must be done for the pleasure of it :)

  10. Wonderful post, that book also resonates with me. I'm actually a bit sad because I can't find my copy. I'm thinking of buying another, and if I find the first I can give it to my mom.

  11. Great post today. Love that writting is it's own reward.

  12. @Yvonne, thanks!

    @Carrie, I agree. I've been really grateful for the motivation, but I'm glad we're almost to the end too!

    @Karen, thanks. I've never read Natalie Goldberg's book, I'm going to look for that one next. Thanks for the recommendation!

    @Melissa, I agree, she's my writing hero now too. I just loved this book so much. :)

    @Andrea, agree 100%, this book was a great reminder of that.

    @Amy, I think you would really like it too if you decide to read it.

    @Tim, I agree, I also enjoyed King's book, but Lamott's was definitely more helpful for me.

    @Kendal, it was so inspiring, I know I will be re-reading it.

    @Samantha, amen to that! :)

    @Claire, I hope you find your copy, that's a shame.

    @LynnMarie, thank you! :)

  13. Bird by Bird is awesome. Can you tell I'm a fan, too :)


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