I’m going to make a confession. I hate failing. [That’s code for: I’m a perfectionist.] I’m a fairly talented person; I’m a Jill of many trades, in fact, but I don’t like doing anything I can’t do well. I may try something once—usually in private—and if I don’t have an aptitude for it, I never do it again. So, obviously, since this is my second attempt at writing a novel, I’m pretty sure I don’t suck at it. But I’ve had a hard time writing this week. I know what I need to write. I know where my story is going. I just couldn’t push those keys.
So, I went back to my bible of writing inspiration: Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing and Life. If you’re a writer and you haven’t read it, I have only one question for you: WHY?
I’ve read the whole thing through several times, and sections of it far too many times to count. I keep it in the console of my car so whenever I’m stuck waiting, even for two minutes, I can open it and get a quick fix. Yesterday, while waiting in the doctor’s office, I read a good bit, and last night I started back to work and wrote 1,000 words. I’ll share a couple tidbits that made me laugh and sent me back to the keyboard.
I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or even can stand her.
Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow. One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do—you can either type or kill yourself.” — Anne Lamott, 1994