Friday, 16 January 2015


Books about writing generally remind us that authors regard their job as hard work. This comes as bad news. I would guess that most readers - even ones that have ambitions to become writers one day (which is probably most of them)- don’t really want to be reminded that writing is actually hard work. In fact, not only do we not want to be told this, we also deep down don’t want to believe it.

We readers, possessing vague, one-dayish sort of literary dreams, prefer to subscribe to the vision that writers do a day’s work by wandering around the house, imagining, and then sit down for a bit with a cup of tea and write it down. Whilst eating a cake. In other words, that writing a book is a slightly more long-winded dramatic version of what I did for most of 1983, ie. staring out the window and having a long fantasy about kissing Nick Heyward. With maybe slightly more dramatic obstacles standing in the way of the kissing, which have to be got out of the way before a happy ending ensues.

In “Bird By Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life”, Anne Lamott captures perfectly the reader’s sense of deflation when told the truth about writing. She describes teaching writing classes to students she warns that writing isn’t easy to do as a career, and them looking at her blankly, with a gawp that implies they might seek a refund.

Luckily, she also provides much motivational advice, and this is rather inspiring. Plenty to underline, actually transcribe, and write on your own authorly heart for future consumption. And it turns out that the rest of the internet already joined the party, because Anne Lamott, a writer I’d never heard of before, has 300 billion followers on Facebook. Or something. Anyway, she’s a regular Miley Cyrus of the book world. The point is, she writes funny little stories, regularly, about her life, and people love her for it. Though she never quite solves the problem of how I am going to, eventually, deal with doing all that genuinely hard work.


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