Lamott is fun to read because she is so very over-the-top nuerotic. There were parts of this chapter, the one called "Publication," however, that were downright irritating and others parts that rang with clarion-bell truth that engraved my bones. Glad you're along for our book club.
Many nonwriters assume that publication is a thunderously joyous event in the writer's life...They believe that if they themselves were to get something published, their lives would change instantly, dramatically, and for the better. Their self-esteem would flourish; all self-doubt would be erased like a typo. Entire paragraphs and manscripts of disappointment and rejection and lack of faith would be wiped out by one push of a psychic delete button and replaced by a quiet, tender sense of worth and belonging. Then they could wrap the world in flame.--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
When people learn that I'm a published author of five novels, they assume I'm rich, as brash and adventuresome as Ernest Hemmingway, and famous. I am none of these things. I'm the manager of a household (including three toilets), the dog walker/poo poo picker-upper, the gardener, snow shoveler, and purveyor of sustenance (I shop at Wal-Mart). My self-esteem is not bulletproof, nor do I slough off rejection. I'm the same person I was before my first novel was published, only my expectations are more realistic, and I must deal regularly with issues of envy. (This may seem contradictory. Aren't we all?)
My life has been enriched by reaching a broader audience. Writing five novels has confirmed that I can accomplish big things. Composing a story weighing in at 100,000 words is like climbing Mt. Everest in the dark, without a camera or witnesses. It's big! Satisfying. Intoxicating. Privately, it's a golden handshake.
And people invite me to speak to groups large and small. Trust me, when I was changing diapers or teaching school, no one invited me anywhere to say anything. I thoroughly enjoy this perk because there are things I care about, and now people will listen to me--or pretend to listen while licking chocolate cake off the tines of their forks.
Over the last ten years, I've had amazing opportunities to share God's faithfulness, encourage artists and craftpeople to value their abilities as gifts, teach the craft of writing to aspiring writers, and convince rooms full of librarians that fiction is more truthful than nonfiction. I really, really like this part, but the invitations are dwindling since I haven't published anything in some time. Boo! Hiss!
All that I know about the relationship between publication and mental health was summed up in one line of the movie Cool Runnings..."If you're not enough before the gold medal, you won't be enough with it."
Being a published writer is humbling. One day you're a rock star--your publisher is buying full-page ads in magazines, telling the world you're the fresh voice in fiction, and PR people know your number by heart--and the next day, a review comes out in your local paper. It's the worst review ever written, and now your neighbors are blushing for you and avoiding eye contact at the grocery store. Your mother even writes a letter to the editor. You're wondering if it's too late to crawl back into obscurity. It is, sorry to say. But you are still standing, and you're discovering other reasons to put yourself out there.
All of this is to say that you need more than being published to "be enough" for yourself. While plotting and researching, spend time with people who love you and some that you choose to love. Nurture those relationships as fervantly as you nurture your craft, even moreso. This includes the One who loves you most, the Lord Jesus Christ. He's crazy about you! He cares little about what you do. (Publishing contracts are used in bird cages in Heaven.) Jesus revels in who you are--a lover of the unlovely, one who reaches out a hand to the hurting, someone who says yes, yes, yes to all that He is and loves Him for it. People like this are enough for themselves. This should be your goal before publication.
Has publication been all you dreamed? What "gifts" do you welcome most from publication? Which challenge you? How do you prepare yourself to face the ups and downs of publication?
We have one more chapter of Lamott's book Bird by Bird to discuss. Any other suggestions?