I just finished reading Anne Lamott’s remarkable book, Bird by Bird, which was sent to me by a dear friend who is also a writer. I’m not sure where she got the idea that this book would resonate with me–it’s not like I have sent long, needy emails to everyone I know, begging for reassurance that I am not a complete hack and that my writing is not, as I have been known to describe it, “worthless drivel perpetuated by a slug with delusions of grandeur.”
No. Not me.
Reading Lamott’s book was a godsend for me. Not only did it give me permission to be completely mad (which I assume most people who identity as serial writers are), but it gave me permission to write, even if I never become a Rich and Famous Writer.
What a glorious release it is, to know that I am a writer because I write. Because I choose to express my understanding of this admittedly disturbed cosmos through words. No agent, editor, publisher, or bookseller can tell me whether or not I am a writer.
After finishing the book, I did a couple of things. First, I handed it to my beloved partner Fey, so she could get a glimpse into what she’s dealing with. The madness, the insecurity, the complete and utter intellectual neediness–these are all part of the game when you’re with a writer. But the glorious observation, the joy of being able to express things in a way that’s wholly unique–these are the flip side of the equation.
After securing from her a promise to read a chapter a day for me, I then went to my abandoned diet book and started reading. I’d given up the whole idea of writing a diet book because, a) I gained back half the weight, and b) I’m not An Authority on anything. But reading the first chapter, I realized I had something to say, and I was saying it in a funny, honest sort of way.
Finally, I started a new blog, called Ten Thousand Soapboxes, where I could publish some of my essays. I have not abandoned fiction, because I feel I spin a fairly good yarn. But I am not going to limit myself to what I write anymore, just because that is what I think it takes to make me An Important Writer.
The only important writer is the one who’s writing.
Everyone else is just taking up space on the book shelves.