Thanks to Cassie’s recommendation, I am now enjoying this awesome book about writing fiction and all the personal drama of a novelist that seems to come with it. To tell the truth, I am in awe, stunned, speechless. It blows my mind just to think that a book about writing can have such profound effect on a person. As if the sky opened up, and, for a brief moment, I’ve glimpsed a reflection of something bigger than life. The sense of awe (and acute awareness of it) struck me even before I arrived at the following sentence: “This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of – please forgive me — wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered world.” Wow! That was Lamott’s intent all along! Not only am I delighted with her ability to produce such magic, but also with my ability to be part of it as a reader. Within every page, things are revealed that I didn’t know, didn’t pay attention to or couldn’t put into words before; with every sentence, my mental picture of writing and the reasons why we write is gaining more clarity, vibrancy and depth. I understand now why we love to write so much – it gives us a chance to transcend our personal limitations and connect with Beauty, Love, Compassion, God — even though to do it, we have “to open veins and bleed.”
Half-way through the book, when I was reading about creating believable characters and letting them do their own thing, a thought crossed my mind that it may be so that I haven’t got even an ounce of literary talent. I stayed with the thought long enough to look at it from this angle and that, waiting to see which emotion would rush to surface. Shockingly, it was relief. Now I can put my worries about “talent” (or lack of it) to bed and simply go about my business. This discovery, however, makes me wonder whether I will harbour any dreams of ever writing a novel. Oh, forget the novel, how about a short story for a start? Memoirs?.. At any rate, I’ve enrolled in Creative Writing 101 and decided to include in this blog a few posts about my experiences growing up.
Back to the awe-inspiring book. I actually don’t have much to add, except that the book is funny and insightful. You’ll learn a ton about being a writer and maybe even how to write fiction. You’ll learn about being a reader too, which is also important. (Just for perspective, along with Bird by Bird I was also recommended Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. No doubt, it’s a good book, very well written, but after reading the first 20 pages, I gave it up, because I was bored out of my skull. Maybe some other time.) Bird by Bird is like a breath of fresh air: lighthearted, humorous, delightful. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.