Deb Elise Gnaws on Anne Lamott

You know how sometimes something is so overwhelmingly perfect, you just want to bite it?

I say this all the time to my daughter.  “You’re so delicious, I just want to bite you!”  Sometimes it’s more specific, like “Look at that face!  I just need to bite that head!”  Or “look at that tushie!  I have to bite that tushie!”

I should clarify that my daughter is only six.  At six, tushie-biting is highly amusing.  At twenty-six it might be a little disturbing.

Point is, at least in my family the so-wonderful-I-have-to-bite-it is an age-old tradition, which is why I posted a picture of me chomping voraciously on Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.  (It looks like it’s in a mirror because I took the picture using Photo Booth.  I love Photo Booth, but it’s far too convenient for me, since I take waaaaay too many blog pics while I’m in my natural writing state: unrested, uncosmetic’d, and often unwashed… though all that’s for another post.)

This is hands-down the best book on writing ever.  The whole thing is gold, but my favorite chapter is “Radio Station KFKD.”  We’re a PG-13 site, so I can’t spell it out for you, but sound out the last three letters and you’ll see where she’s going.

Basically, Radio Station KFKD is the voice in your head that says you’re NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  It screams in your ear every insecurity, every possible disaster, every reason you’re going to fail.  As writers, it’s the voice we hear every time we sit down to write.

I can’t even remember a time when Radio Station KFKD wasn’t blaring in my ears.  I didn’t know it by name, of course, but I knew it was there, and frankly it pissed me off.  What is said didn’t even piss me off as much as the very fact that I let it exist.  I was furious at myself for constantly getting in my own way, and convinced that I couldn’t be successful until I banished that evil little gremlin voice once and for all.

Then I read Bird by Bird, and realized even Anne Lamott, one of my idols, has Radio Station KFKD blaring in her ears “every single morning.”

Cue the skies opening up and the Hallelujah chorus.

If literary genius Anne Lamott, after all her success, still wakes up with horribly negative voices in her head… then I can’t blame myself for still wrestling with them, right?

Totally liberating.

Then the chapter gets better, as Ms. Lamott gives actual, concrete tips on banishing the self-destructive dialogue from your head.  I have yet to master these tips, but as you’ll read in the chapter, neither has she.  She struggles, just like we all do.  But then she pushes through and achieves those stretches of time we all love, when everything else goes away and the only voices we hear are our characters’.

So long story short, for the best writing advice ever, read Bird by Bird. I’m even going to link to it on Amazon, despite the fact that it makes me feel like the post was one big commercial.  I swear, I get no kickbacks, it’s just that good.

Oh hey… anyone out there have some Anbesol?  I think I got a paper cut on my gums…

~ Deb Elise

9 Replies to “Deb Elise Gnaws on Anne Lamott”

  1. You have lovely teeth. My Dad was a dentist/orthodontist. We notice teeth in our family. I haven’t thought of Anbesol in 100 years – thanks for the reminder. I can smell it now. The negative voices seem louder today as the publishing market shifts and morphs. Every rejection I’ve ever gotten bangs around my head as I write. I need the BIG BIRD version of Bird by Bird. KIM

  2. If I had a nickel for every time someone has recommended this book to me, I would have a whole lot of nickels. Thanks for the reminder that I need to go get my hands on it!


  3. This is one of my all time favorite books and chapters. I’m not a writer, but am very familiar with Lamotts “mind is a bad neighborhood” that we shouldn’t go into at night! I find her totally validating too. And yes, I did read Mockingjay and loved the series. Did we know in college how much we each loved to read and how similar some of our tastes are? Love your work.

  4. Kim, Big Bird should totally write a book on writing. I’d absolutely read it.

    Eleanor — agreed, it’s pretty universally insidious.

    Tawna and Greg – YES! Buy it; you will love it!

    Larramie, I agree, and one of things I so love about Anne Lamott is that while she has it figured out… She doesn’t even begin to pretend she has the mental ing mastered. She works at it and fails, tries again and gets thwarted, again and again and again, but always striving for that place where everything flows, in writing and in life.

    Ali – Dude, Conn College had us paired better than we ever realized!!! Really want to see you next time I get to NYC.

  5. I LOVE this book. And I, too, feel the urge to bite things I love. Heheh! Apparently this is something that runs in the family, as my 21-month old bites all of his family members. 🙂 xo

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