An update on my promise at the end of my Words of a Feather post: I did start reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and got all the way to page 28 before I finally gave up on it. Turns out my suspicions were valid, but at least (for now) my chapeau is safe.
It's a well-written book, and I know a lot of people have enjoyed it (oh, yes. Of this, I'm sure.) The author is even occasionally funny. So everyone who loves the book should stop reading right here and go to another blog because if you don't I'm probably going to offend the hell out of you.
The problem I had with the book is really on me, not the author. My life experience is very different from hers, as is my tragedy scale. So is my evolution as a writer and my view of the work. I am not unsympathetic, and I'm sure she felt she was being brutally honest.
That said, when you talk about writing to another writer, you should never assume you know what their writing life is like, or tell them how it should be if they want to be a real writer. Employing too much of the neurotic excuse-laden self-pitying ego-stroking so beloved by the literati doesn't score any points with me. Nor does a memoir disguised as a writing book. If you want to be inspirational, you have to sing me more than ye olde ancient tune of the real writer being a booze-soaked, cosmically-tormented artist sans an iota of self-esteem (something I also believe is complete crap.) I have heard it all before, a gazillion times, trust me.
These are some of the reasons why I was bored by bored before the author even finished her introduction. Beyond that I found very little practical advice for the working writer, and no birds at all -- at least, not by page 28.
You know, we all have issues. For some writers, one big issue seems to be the writing itself. It's like a bad marriage to an abusive spouse that never ends; they fight it and wail about it and bleed over it and then crawl into a bottle of booze or pills trying to get away from it, only to go back and be battered again.
This is where I come up short, because writing for me is a non-issue. It's probably an anti-issue. It's the most fun I can have that doesn't involve my guy, several hours and a locked door. It's not always perfect, and I certainly have bad writing days just like anyone else. It's the hardest work I've ever done, and the best job I've ever had. I'm not married to writing, but we've lived together practically my whole life, and (unlike my ex-spouses) it's been utterly faithful and taken very good care of me.
One good thing that came out of trying to read this book was kind of a reality check. I know what I put on the blog carries a certain amount of weight because of my experience as a pro, but I will never know what your writing life is like or what makes someone a real writer. I need to be more vigilant about what I post here so that you never assume I do, because if I'm sure of anything, it's that no one knows. We just do the best we can with what we've been given, and hopefully help each other out when we can along the way.