Monday, 4 July 2011

The freedom to write Bird by Bird

Shaune tapped my book. “Are you giddy with excitement because The Smurfs are back?”

I lowered Bird by Bird a little, looked at the trailer for the new movie, rolled my eyes and picked up where I was reading again. It had been a mild source of amusement between us since Rosemary had burned me a copy of The Smurf’s Greatest Hits a few years ago. Although she was there, she seemed to have forgotten all the painful parts of my childhood. Her kid-like capacity to paint everything with pink frosting was infuriating.

“Yeah, I’m beside myself,” I replied.

“I can’t believe you guys were so into it.” He insisted.

“It was one of Matthew’s shows. We liked it because he liked it.” I knew this would stop his teasing. I didn’t want to have to whip out the Matthew card but it was the truth.

“Oh.” He left it alone after that. A quick pain stabbed through me to see that I’d turned a light moment so grave. A little over a year after his passing and I still was not able to discuss my brother with anything close to levity.

I looked back down at the book.

In this dark and wounded society, writing can give you the pleasures of the woodpecker, of hollowing out a hole in a tree where you can build your nest and say, “This is my niche, this is where I live now, this is where I belong.” And the niche may be small and dark, but at last you will finally know what you are doing. After thirty years or more of floundering around and screwing up, you will finally know, and when you get serious you will be dealing with the one thing you’ve been avoiding all along – your wounds. This is very painful. It stops a lot of people early on who didn’t get into this for the pain. They got into it for the money and the fame. So they either quit, or they resort to a type of writing that is sort of like candy making.

“It’s a good memory.” I offered. “Kinda like our reluctant affection for Dora because Deaglan loves her. You know?”

“Yeah, I get it.”


Another Band-Aid to cover the ugliness. A moment-by-moment discipline: I practiced restraining my ego again, the part of me who would rather have ranted on and on about how unfair it was growing up in that house. I stopped myself from launching into a twenty minute word montage illustrating what childhood had been like for me.

Lamott’s words were now drowning out everything I’d trained myself to believe, everything I’d feared. All that had ever stopped me from writing.

Even if you never publish a word, you have something important to pour yourself into. Your parents and grandparents will be shouting, “Don’t do it, don’t sit down, don’t sit down!,” and you’ll have to do what you did as a kid – shut them out and get on with finding out about life.

This is what I came up with for the prompt: tv show from your past. Maybe you watched it, maybe you didn't and it was just something that everyone else talked about. What feelings does the show evoke? What memories does it trigger?

Do you like how I snuck in a book review of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird? I wish I could express how enchanting it was. How I wanted to sit down and write every single time I read even one paragraph. How  I yearned to stalk her until I could pinpoint her whereabouts and then insist we discuss everything. I wanted to ask her how she could know me so well to be able to write a book so suited to me and my desires. I wanted to quote several pages at a time in my writing until it became quite apparent what I would be doing. Plagerizing.

If you don't believe me, please read it for yourself. Make sure you buy a copy because you'll find it impossible not to dog-ear and highlight it. And then after you've read it, and you find yourself at the library trying to get your hands on everything else she's written, don't be mad.

I've got all of her books on loan indefinitely.


  1. I love how you always put your own unique spin on the prompts! I loved this line "Another Band-Aid to cover the ugliness"! Great job!

  2. That one is actually on my reading list!

  3. After so many of you at TRDC have suggested the book, I'm adding it to my list.

    I loved the twist on the prompt ... and the sneaking in of the book review!

    Writing at

  4. I have that book-and love it too.
    And your writing Kim is so wonderful-about as far from candy making as you can get:)

  5. Outstanding response to the prompt! You're writing is so unflinching. I really liked the last Anne Lamott book I read, Traveling Mercies...will add Bird by Bird to my summer reading list.

    Oh, and Dora just found her way into our lives and I'm undecided about her, but Marlie loves her to bits

  6. What an honest piece, but very sad. Your pain is so real that I could feel it myself. I'm so sorry. But YAY for awesome books!

  7. I am so sorry again about your brother...I can't imagine how you deal with your loss every day. It must be hard. A year isn't long so of course you'll still find it hard to talk about Matthew.

    You've dealt with so much Kim! I am amazed at how you handle everything with such grace and understanding. You are my role model - I mean that.

    And I am adding Bird by Bird to my list. Thank you for the suggestion!

  8. Yes! I do like how you snuck in a review- that was clever, indeed!

    I actually thought that you wove a lot in here- emotion, learning, memoir, sadness, healing, defenses.

    As always, thank you for sharing more of your story. I'm always struck by your words about your brother.

  9. Okay u sold me on bird...and dont get me started on the smurfs! Lovedmurntake on this prompt

  10. I have to agree with Galit. I was in awe over how much you covered in such a short, and succint piece.
    The line about painting everything with pink frosting made me laugh, as I know quite a few of those and they can be irrating.
    Thank you for your honesty and add me as another adding it to the Must Read list!

  11. This quote from your book reminded me of what Hemingway said.

    "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

  12. So touching Kim...I am going to have to look into this book. I've never heard of it. Oh, and your masthead, that is the cutest booty ever!!

  13. Great writing, Kim. And now I want to read that book!

    We have Season One of the Smurfs here. What can I say? I'm a child of the 80s ;-)

  14. Wow! Such a well written post. It's amazing how a few words can make one feel so very much.

    It's so inspiring hopping around the writing blogs seeing some of the amazing work people create with their words.

    I am another one who is going to look into that book. I think I need it now.

  15. Well done - prompt and review.

    By the way, I LOVED the Smurfs as a kid. 90 minutes every Saturday morning.

    My husband still teases me - he says there is just something weird about a village with only one female and one elder. I never thought of that until I was an adult. He's right.

    Sometimes, though, instead of swearing, I will grumble, "Ah Smurf". It has stuck with me.

    Glad you enjoyed some reading time to yourself.

  16. LOVE your writing gir! EXCELLENT! Following so I never miss out on a post! Thanx for visiting Jems From Jenny. Hope to see you back! Have a STELLAR weekend!

    Your new fan,

  17. I've read other Lamott books and liked them, but not this one yet.

  18. I really want to read this book now. Those are powerful excerpts that you shared. You gave me much to think about when it comes to uncovering my wounds through writing. I worry that my writing may turn into candy making sometimes. Love this.


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