I always wait until the last minute, well actually I wait until five minutes until after the bell has rang. I scramble around trying to relieve procrastinator’s guilt and consequence. So I called my friend Debra Elramey, and asked her if she had Bird by Bird on tape so I could listen to it on my way to work (an hour total commute there and back). I had to read the book and do a presentation on the book in my graduate class this past fall semester. This essay is part of the presentation. I was trying to kill two birds with one stone. But I don’t like that expression all that much since we are talking about birds here.
Some hunter must have come up with that. Someone who would order pigeon under glass. Debra told me she certainly had it, but not on tape and that this was one of two books she would under no circumstances, lend out. All other lovely books would be available like a library, with a smile to check it out. But not Bird by Bird. The other book is Angela’s Ashes.
She made an exception for me, sensing my procrastination crisis. She said, “Consider yourself special.”
Debra and I have often talked about Bird by Bird, discussing the writing process, the crisis of thought, the problems of plot. The realities of life. Bird by Bird is often her advice to any problem I am having, writing, real life, or both.
In Anne Lamont’s, Bird by Bird, she takes us writers, who are frantically asking questions, nagging at her shirt, pulling on her pens, and wondering, just how we can get published. Her answer is simple – write.
The concept and advice to just write is just about what every author worth their weight says. Even the tiny ninety pounders will say it too – write. Sit your damn ass in a chair and write. There is no other way to get er’ done. But us writers think there is. Some simple formula. Put the dishes and pens in the dishwasher, add some paper to the rinse cycle, and out will come a shiny masterpiece. You won’t even have to edit it. Just use Cascade for the promise of a no spot shine.
This is bullshit thinking and we are good at it. For a procrastinator lives in almost every writer’s heart, beating a loud drum of self-righteous freedom and I’ve got better things to do or I have got things that have to be done. But what calls us writers to the table like a hungry fat kid neighbor, to your kitchen table when you are making chicken pot pies for supper, is the longing to write. The need to write. It lives, breathes, and can not be killed with two stones or three. Heck, you could have an avalanche fall on it and it wouldn’t stop a beat.
So, as Anne Lamont advises, let that beating, breathing firebird that warms you, burns you, cools you, and divides you to ashes, rise and surround you in your own flight. But it won’t be easy and there is no rinse cycle. There is no technology driven appliance or invention that can get you around the human driven, physical and mental labor of writing.
So like a big ass pile of dishes in the sink, take it bird by bird. They’ll get done and you won’t have to use the dishwasher, because remember there is no dishwasher in this house.
*** I did, indeed, purchase my own copy of Bird by Bird, after returning Debra’s after finishing it for class.memomuse facing West
memomuse is a writer who relocated from Wyoming to the South. She is often confused about her directions because she is looking for the mountains to tell her which way is West. She knows in her heart, her compass will always point home to Wyoming. For now, she is busy making mama muse and writer muse in the hearts of those she loves (her family, friends, and fans). She does think she has a little Scarlett O’Hara in her and she believes anyone can find their Tara — sometimes the soil must be squeezed with the muscles of the heart and not the hand. She has a bumper sticker on her back that says, “Bloom where you are planted.”