If I was going to be trapped on a desert island and could bring only one book, it would be Bird by Bird. This book lives on my nightstand. I pick it up when I need encouragement, inspiration, or company. Here are some of the parts I turn to.
On being enough:
All that I know about the relationship between publication and mental health was summed up in one line of the movie Cool Runnings, which is about the first Jamaican bobsled team. The coach is a four-hundred-pound man who had won a gold in Olympic bobsledding twenty years before but has been a complete loser ever since. The men on his team are desperate to win an Olympic medal, just as half the people in my classes are desperate to get published. But the coach says, “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.” You may want to tape this to the wall near your desk. (p. 218)
On getting what you wish for:
Even though so much of my writing time is stressful and disheartening, I carry a secret sense of accomplishment around with me, like a radium pack implanted near my heart that now leaches a quiet sense of relief through my system. (p. 216)
Like a leaching radium pack? With friends (accomplishments) like that, who needs enemies?!
On giving yourself a break:
I doubt you would read a close friend’s early efforts and, in his or her presence, roll your eyes and snicker. I doubt you would pantomime sticking your finger down your throat. I think you would say something along the lines of, “Good for you. We can work out some of the problems later, but for now, full steam ahead!” (p. 31)
On creating narrators, and by extension, selecting friends:
[A] person’s faults are largely what make him or her likable….I like them to be mentally ill in the same sorts of ways that I am….I don’t mind if a person has no hope if he or she is sufficiently funny about the whole thing, but then, this being able to be funny definitely speaks of a kind of hope, of buoyancy. (pp. 50-51)
There are a lot of other parts I really like. I have made the metaphors in this book my metaphors. The one-inch picture frame. The gorilla. The school lunches. Broccoli. KFKD. Lemonade.
Deep breath. After all, “it is just a piece of chicken. It is just a bit of cake.” Thank you, Annie.