If I could sit in a classroom with Anne Lamott at the board it may take a bit of bribery to coerce me into ever leaving that room. As I finished reading Bird by Bird today I was overwhelmed with sadness. I’m sad to have reached the end of her lessons. I’m sad to be through with her instruction. Instead of sitting here writing about what I’ve learned I feel like unwrapping my old cap and gown and playing a little pomp and circumstance.
Having finished this book hasn’t quite earned me the distinction of a master’s degree, but the amount of information I’ve unpacked from this short book is beyond equivalency to most graduate writing courses.
Anne Lamott is a professional in every sense of the word. Her work is profoundly honest and insightful. So much of what I read in this book will continue to resonate with me for as long as I continue to write. If she wasn’t so attached to her privacy I would send her a letter to inform her of how much this book helped to shape me as a writer on my journey to finding my unique writing voice.
The first lesson from today’s reading was about what it really means to be a writer. Writing isn’t about gaining for yourself. To write under the notion that it will solve all of your problems is naive. We write to give. We write to bring peace. We write to put into language what so many people feel, but struggle to express. Writing is about giving to others. Our work is a gift to the broader community around us. It is a gift given first to us. But our gift is also one to be shared with others.
As an unpublished author I oftentimes fall into the trap of believing that publication is the end goal. If one day I could hold a paper stack bound with a cute cover bearing my name as the author then surely all of my dreams will be realized and I will feel complete. Wrong.
Publication comes with its own sets of trials. To be published is to jump through the endless hoops thrown from agents, editors and publishers. The road to publishing is paved with self doubt and rejection. It’s a daunting road that climaxes on a release date that tends to come and go like any other day (or so I hear.)
In this chapter I was forced to refocus myself. To publish my work would be cool, but if that is my true dream I will be left unsatisfied.
The Last Class
Lamott closed this book with the many lessons she hopes her readers take away from her experiences. For me, I really connected with this quote, “devotion and commitment will be [our] own reward, that in dedication to [our] craft [we] will find solace and direction and wisdom and truth and pride.” (Lamott 232)
Above anything else I will take away that writing is about the process. It’s about sitting down and putting words on a page. Day by day and bird by bird.
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