Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Publication–and Other Reasons to Write – Publication

I’m almost reaching the last part of the book. I’m getting impatient now for I would like to move on to my next reading (which I still haven’t decided what it would be), yet at the same time, I really don’t wanna rush everything. I still wanna enjoy the book.

But still, I’m reading as fast as I could while trying to slow down as well.

Before I finally reached The Last Class, there’s Publication. One thing that I’d like to read the most. Isn’t this one of the holy grails for most writers?

Apparently not.

“I tell you, if what you have in mind is fame and fortune, publication is going to drive you crazy.” ~p. 214

Right. I imagined.

I only got published twice so far, and that was long time ago as well, and in a Christian magazine as well (not to discriminate Christian community of course, but this should reveal that I have a very limited number of readers, not to mention that not all Christians are going to read my writings–I doubt that), yet I’ve boasted all about it, perhaps more than Margaret Mitchell ever did with her Gone With the Wind.

At some points, I know that publication is not at all the end of the journey. Well, except for Margaret Mitchell, perhaps. At the same time, I still want publication so bad. Really bad that I kept trying to send my crappy writings to any newspaper and magazines available.

Here I am! Please, please, publish my writing even if it’s nothing but rubbish!

But of course, unless I’m Andrea Hirata, or Ahmad Tohari, or Ayu Utami, or Pramoedya Ananta Toer, there’s no way to make sure that even if I ever finally published something, it would be such a sensation.

Reality sucks, so suck it up.

There are bigger chances out there that no one would even notice my (unpublished) book. There are plenty chances as well that no one would even buy my book.

Yet here I am, always dreaming and picturing myself, with my published book. That people would read it and praised it. That people would talk about it over and over.

Then I would read other writers’ books (the more accomplished ones, of course) then I would feel like crap. I mean, who the hell am I? What the hell makes me ever think that my book is going to be as good as these people’s books? They’re sensational, fantastic, and genius. Me? I’m just nobody.

Still, publication is something that I’m after.

Oh, holy grail, indeed.

“…whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware. The cosmic banana peel is suddenly goin to appear underfoot to make sure you don’t take it all too seriously, that you don’t fill up on junk food.” ~p. 218

Not to mention my ego is already huge.

Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Publication–and Other Reasons to Write – Giving

“You are going to have to give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward.” ~p. 203

In another words: make it personal.

“Your work as a writer, when you are giving everything you have to your characters and to your readers, will periodically make you feel like the single parent of a three-year-old, who is, by turns, wonderful, willful, terrible, crazed, and adoring.” ~p. 203

Aha!

My mom always freaked out every time I told her that I would probably not getting married, or even have kids in the future. Well, I’m not saying that I don’t want to, I was simply telling her that it’s a possibility, but apparently, even a possibility freaked her out already. Now I might have just the perfect answer for her. (Writing down the quotation above.)

 The quotation above is probably the reason why it always heart-breaking for writers to get their writings rejected or returned. Because we always make it personal. We always try to put our best effort into it, and these editors or supervisors simply read and then call our best effort as rubbish. Really, who wouldn’t want to electrocute them? If our writings are just like our own kids, then those editors are actually telling us how ugly our kids are.

Fine, I don’t have kids, but you get the idea, right?

“Your child and your work hold you hostage, suck you dry, ruin your sleep, mess with your head, treat you like dirt, and then you discover they’ve given you that gold nugget you were looking for all along.” ~p. 204

Only sometimes, we don’t always get the gold nugget like, stat.

Yet we, as writers, stick to our child, our writings.

Lamott puts it that writing is like giving back. You know the times when we were so much in awe with other senior writers’ books? Writing our book is just like thanking them by writing back to them.

“So write a book back to V. S. Naipaul or Margaret Artwood or Wendell Berry or whoever it is who most made you want to write, whose work you most love to read.” ~p. 204

Enid  Blyton came to my mind. Her works are probably the very first reason why I wanted to write. Of course Michel Faber and Jostein Gaarder also came to my mind right away.

Oh, no. Low self-esteem attack. How am I ever gonna write back to those sophisticated genius people? Compared to their writings, aren’t my writings gonna look like nothing but crap?

“Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it’s right.” ~p. 205

Oh well, it wouldn’t hurt to try, isn’t it? Writing is, after all, a passion.

“What your giving can do is to help your readers be braver, be better than they are, be open to the world again.” ~p. 206

(sigh)

Okay. Breathe.

Give back. The innocence. Think about Michel Faber. And Jostein Gaarder. Jhumpa Lahiri. Vladimir Nabokov. And my readers. My friends. My family.

I can do this.

What about you? Who do you want to write back for? Who’s your favorite writers? Do you also struggle with the same problem when you write? Just like dealing with a three-year-old kid?

Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Publication–and Other Reasons to Write – Writing a Present

“Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems. Publication will not make you more confident or more beautiful, and it will probably not make you any richer.” ~p. 185

Hey! A little imagination here, please?

Of course all of us, aspired writers, aim for this specific goal: Publication. Yes, publication, where I thought would lead me to fame. Well, not exactly fame, for I’m never actually sure of it, but at least I could finally google my name and found it alongside my own book.

But Anne Lamott here, ruined my imagination by sharing her experiences about how publication is not where it ends, and that publication is just another beginning. Publication, in fact, is not the most important thing of all–like, if you’re a Moslem, publication is not exactly like finally being able to go to Mecca to finally experience the spiritual journey. It is not at all like finally going to the Holy Land of Israel for Christians.

In this chapter, what really matters–and almost touch my heart, really (I don’t wanna give you the idea that I’m all that sensitive and soft-hearted) is what and who you’re actually writing for.

Lamott then shared this experience about how she finally published her first book about his father who was sick at that time, as well as her other books which are mostly dedicated to people around her–her friend, Pammy who was also very sick at that time, and another book dedicated to single mother like her. She wrote and wrote in order to finish her book before sickness finally got the best of those people–so they would be able to finally read the book dedicated to them before their sickness finally got worse.

That is so sweet, you know.

It’s not merely about the publication, but it’s more about what the book meant for you and people around you.

“So first I wrote down everything that happened to us, and then I took out the parts that felt self-indulgent.” ~p. 193

Writing an autobiography of you might not actually interest everybody, unless you’re Jesus or Barrack Obama. I doubt that everybody actually read stuffs about Barrack Obama, really. But what’s important is the value and the story about your surrounding, I suppose.

Which is why Lamott ended up writing stuffs about people around her–as a present. As a gift, dedicated to them.

I honestly have no clue to whom my book, let alone my prologue, will be dedicated to. My family? My friend? My enemy?

Maybe as I write and babble I would figure it out. I suppose.

So I’ll get back to my writing now.

And eliminated parts that felt self-indulgent.

Okay. Eliminate them. Eliminate them.