Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is quite simply my favorite book on writing ever. No other writer’s advice guide combines practical, immediately applicable tools for writers with a hilarious, occasionally morbid sense of just what writing does to you psychologically. When we write well, we meet ourselves, and that includes that nastiest, most insecure, most unstable parts. Writing is actually pretty awful quite alot of the time, and I can’t help but acknowledge that those who avoid it are entirely sane to do so. But there is that transcendent element of writing that compels us to do it over and over again.
And there’s the simple fact that writing is an increasingly unavoidable activity, unless you’re the CEO of something and can pay an underling to write the stuff that bears your signature (I was just such an underling at one point). I know people that chose their majors specifically in order to avoid writing and who now spend a great deal of their time doing precisely what they feared. My father, a brilliant doctor who claims he was a C student in English (sometimes I don’t believe him), spends quite alot of time writing journal articles and vetting fundraising materials for his non-profit. My mother, a professional photographer and business owner recently went through the agonizing process of trying to market herself and her services on the internet. My relatives in real estate have written manuals for other agents. In an age of do-it-yourself internet marketing and social networking, writing is an activity that almost no one can avoid, and in spite of the informality of Facebook and Twitter, self-presentation matters. I’m creating this blog for fellow writers, primarily student writers and the instructors who shepherd them along, but also for professional writers and those who need/want to write and are simply mystified and intimidated by the process.
Who am I? I’m a graduate student who has been teaching undergraduate writing five years, working at a massive university writing center for two. I have also written fundraising materials for huge creative arts non-profits and ghost edited marketing materials. Oh, and I’m in the middle of writing a dissertation, which, in a word, SUCKS. Despite a lifetime of good grades and pats on the head from instructors, I’ve never felt less like a confident, capable writer, than I have in the past year, but more on that in the next post.