I am currently rereading a book by Anne Lamott that is one of the best books I have ever read. It is a memoir/ instructional book on writing for writers. If you have never read any of Anne’s stuff I think you’re in for a real treat. The book, “Bird by Bird,” is one that I reread as often as I can, especially if I need to be inspired. Anne is down to earth, funny, and very insightful as to what it takes to write in a way that captures the reader.
There are many of us out there who love to write. We are even good at it. We know grammar and syntax, we know how to construct a sentence, but, we don’t know how to make the fickle reader turn the page. Anne does not go into the constructs of writing a sentence or where to put the dreaded comma; rather, she tells the writer how to catch the attention of a reader, and, how to enjoy what we do—write.
Bird by Bird
In her book, Anne touches on the all-consuming dream of becoming a published author. She tells her own stories of whoa and frustration in regard to her first published work and how exhilarating, and yet, exasperating it was. She said she never made enough money to live off her writing until her fourth publication and laughs at how prestigious all writers think they are when they become “published.” She said she felt as though she was finally vindicated when she saw her first work in print; however, she also alludes to the fact that many writers never really make it big, and most, never even make a good living.
I love one part in the book where she tells her students–in a writing class she taught for over 10 years–these brutal truths. She say’s, quote: “My writing friends and they are legions, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.”
I busted a gut on that one. Man…could I relate. My book “Apples of Gold: A collection of inspirational short stories and poems,” came out in August of 2011. I had arrived, was published, and validated. I soon learned the lesson that all published authors learn, it is quite a different matter between publishing a book and selling a book.
My book has done well for my first run. I self-edited the book, and I still see grammatical errors when I read it—oh well. I sold some copies but then I read Anne’s book for the first time, and I made a decision. I decided it was much more important to be read than to make money at this point in my career. I went to the site and changed the book price to free–downloads of my book started pouring in. My book has stayed in the top ten of free eBooks under poetry for over 6 months now. It is climbing the list of the most downloads rapidly (currently on page 6). I have not made any money on this book; however, I have made a name for myself and readers have responded well.
I wanted to write this post today to speak to my fellow writers who know that feeling of working so hard on your dream. I know what it is like to want to be read, to have someone say that your words touched them—this is why we write. Hang on, don`t give up, keep writing, and make the commitment to become the best you can be. Anne says anyone can learn this craft, some are better than others, it’s true, but, keep writing. She tells the story of her father, a published author, telling her to write every day—every day! I hope you will pick up this book and read it; it is so worth your time.