Bird by Bird, Buddy

I’ve been actually scared of writing, fearful of my manuscript, avoiding it at all costs. Some days it’s hard for me to understand how this could have happened: that I have learned to fear that which I once loved.

But deep inside, I know that I still love writing. It is all the other things that have added fear into the mix: deadlines, critique, even– in some ways– being paid for it.

Again and again, I have had to return to the advice of writing guru Anne Lamott: bird by bird, short assignments, shitty first drafts.

Bird by Bird

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Short Assignments

“Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we’re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry. That is all we are going to do for now. We are just going to take this bird by bird. But we are going to finish this one short assignment.”

Shitty First Drafts

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.”

And with that said– or remembered– I’m off to work on my novel. Think of me.

Love,
Jackie

P.S. If you haven’t read Bird by Bird, man, are you missing out: get it here.

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Writing or Having Written?

There’s a famous Dorothy Parker quote: “I hate writing; I love having written.”

Someone recently reminded me of this quote, and I argued back immediately, “No, I love writing itself!”

Here is where I will now contradict myself:

I love writing.  What can be more enjoyable than experiencing magic while it is happening?  To let the keystrokes happen almost of their own accord.  To encounter storylines that I could have never dreamed of on my own.  Or to press hard into a challenge and discover a solution.  This is the brilliance of writing, of being in the minute, of loving each moment as the words fly from you.

I love having written.  Lately, writing has been producing so much anxiety in me.  It’s different than my OCD anxiety though.  It’s more of a fear of the future and a fear of failure.  Part of it is that I’m writing on a deadline again for the first time since college.  Part of it is working on a first draft of a character-driven novel where I’m not certain the characters are strong enough to drive it.  Part of it is that it’s simply what writing is like.

I do know that I need to get my anxiety under control again.  I have a couple ideas:

* Post my First Draft Manifesto in places where I will see it often.
* Start using Valor, a blend of essential oils that’s been called both “a chiropractor in a bottle” and “courage in a bottle”
* Meet with writing mentor for some valuable wisdom on the writing life and how to win the head game [edit: did this and will post about it tomorrow!]
* Give myself grace
* Chat with my psychiatrist about this recent flare of anxiety

Any other suggestions?  My writing life as of late has been like a roller coaster of self-doubt, and I need to get this under control.  In other words, I need to not only love having written … I need to love writing itself.

My friend Anna posted about this on her blog today as well!  Check it out here!

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