Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brain Crack and Bird by Bird

Months ago I blogged about brain crack in regard to grad school. I may still have a little bit of that. Gosh I had several conversations in the last week about why I wasn't in school and what was going on and I kept feeling kind of like a phony for insisting that I was good enough for a ph.d. program when none of the programs I apply to accept me into their programs.

But that's not really what this post is about. It's about a book and a confession.

The book: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It's a fantastic book on writing and life by a woman who holds nothing back. I read Anne Lamott and she encourages me to be honest with myself and (within reason) with others. I read aloud excerpts to my husband, and he just shakes his head while I laugh and empathize with the situation. Check it out. It's up there with Walking on Water as a book on writing you should read even if you don't want to write.

Anyway in Bird by Bird there is a quote of Annie Dillard that Lamott paraphrases as "day by day you have to give the work before you all the best stuff you have, not saving up for later projects. If you give freely, there will always be more" (p. 202 if you care which I will in about 7 month). That, my friends, is a prettily worded solution to the phenomenon Ze Frank describes as brain crack. Instead of saving up your GREAT IDEA, you try it out.

And it's really hard to do. I struggle with it in various parts of my life, but I have to confess one right now. My brain crack of late is that I'll become a freelance writer. I have a (non-paying) project lined up. I get excited when I do the research. And then it languishes. And I'm sad. But I don't do anything about it. I put it on a vague list. I schedule a time to look at my notes and get re-excited and I put it off. I think it's because I'd really like to be a "writer" but I'm really scared that I won't be any good. I have a critic that's really really loud and repeats a particularly painful phrase that I'd link to because it's on the internet, but I don't want to let that person know exactly how much it bugs me. And so my article, the idea of becoming a writer, it's all brain crack.

Reading someone like Anne Lamott is helpful, because she admits to not having it all together. I read myself in her words of doubt and self-criticism and procrastination. She inspires me to break my addiction to brain crack. Lifehacker says that sometimes it's not a good idea to share your goals because it functions more like bragging than motivation, but despite that I do want to finish this particular writing project by September 1st, and my blog readers have permission to come to Cincinnati and kick my butt if it doesn't happen. :-)

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