Monday, November 4, 2013

Driven to Madness

It's funny how time can change one's perspective. 
I first read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life just after it was published in 1994. Today the book is widely lauded as both a practical guide to the writer’s life and a profound wisdom-trove on life; with pithy insights offered on everything from overcoming self-doubt to navigating the balance of intuition and rationality in one's individual psyche. It is much loved. And my first reading was preceded by a very enthusiastic endorsement from a poetry professor who suggested that it was the most valuable book on writing, EVER. 
Here's a little taste:

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

Being who I am, I choose to take an independent view of Lamott's book. Namely, almost 20 years ago, I felt that it painted a portrait of all writers as pathetic, neurotic, needy, spineless weaklings who seek permission from one of their many therapists before putting pen to paper. That all writers are haunted by childhood trauma, are riddled with addictions, afflicted with dandruff and are wrapped in moth-eaten cartigans. In short, I felt it was a well written and entertaining crock of shit. 

I had occasion to re-read the Bird by Bird more recently. And because I have found that the process of writing and publishing turns perfectly well adjusted people into pathetic, neurotic, needy, spineless weaklings who desperately seek the correct balance of anti-depressants and box wine to allow them to knock out another few paragraphs, before carpal tunnel and asthma require them to take yet another break-then I had a much more sympathetic response to this book upon a second reading. It was like getting a hug and chuck on the shoulder. It made me feel like I wasn't alone, like I had friends. Sad, introverted friends who desperately need to moisturize and have an alergy to cat dander. But friends. 

If you haven't read it, perhaps you will like it. If you find you don't like it, wait ten years and read it again.

I wrote this, just for my blog readers: 

On knee-jerk impulse
born out of a perceived
lack of parental acceptance
and general immaturity
I listed among my skills
on my Linked In profile
Riotous Sexual Innovation

I laughed at that
and waited
for three months
for someone,
to endorse me.

a strange man
by the clearly made-up name
of Elmore Cluckson
acknowledged my sexual gifts
and sent me a note saying,
"I think of you often, in the early morning, when I can't sleep."

After a couple days
of living with it
I deleted the skill from my profile,
then deleted the account.
Still, it was the kindest thing
anyone had said
for months.

In Good For Nothing news: My UK publisher, Skyscraper, is applying special publishing industry calculus to a series of facts and statistics in order to divine the best moment for the hardbound edition of my book to be released into the book shops of England. Although the link above indicates a November release, I think that is wishful thinking/place holder rather than actual fact. There was some more good news, another advance order of books was placed by the distributor who sells to books shops in public transit locations such as train stations and airports. So, if you have a layover at Gatwick, you can pop in and find my novel for sale soon. 

In US publisher news: There is no definitive US publisher news. Though, there is some activity. Waiting. The waiting is what turns the sane into the less sane. 

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