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<Drums Rattle Djembe Doumbek>

Bird by Bird and Breath by Breath

Last week, two people mentioned the book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I had heard of the book before, but have shied away from buying writing books. I always thought that books like this would remind me of all the things I am not doing as a writer and would only highlight my flaws. Yet within pages of picking up this book, I felt utter relief. I felt like someone was voicing exactly some of my inner feelings and beliefs.

On the second page of the introduction, Lamott writes, “One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.” I think in words. I process in writing. Most people I know process verbally and through conversation. I process with pen and paper. I process with stories and metaphors (which drives some of my friends nuts!).

Writing has saved my life – in many forms and ways. When all my emotions get stuck inside, sometimes my only outlet has been putting my thoughts on paper. I understand when Lamott says, “Throughout my childhood I believed that what I thought about was different from what other kids thought about. It was not necessarily more profound, but there was a struggle going on inside me to find some sort of creative or spiritual or aesthetic way of seeing the world and organizing it in my head.”

Lamott tells a story about a paper her brother had to write about birds and the advice her father gave him – to take it bird by bird.  With so much information to process and feelings to express, I am easily overwhelmed. In my case, I have to take it breath by breath – word by word.

Why do I write? I write to make some sense out of life. I write because it fills my heart with more joy than anguish. I write because just having one person feel connected and heard and seen is the most valuable gift I know how to give. As Lamott says, “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”

Feed your soul – breath by breath,
Mary Anne

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