I’m reading a book right now which has been recommended to me several times. The book is called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and within the first few chapters I stumbled across something that really hit home for me.
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
This spoke to me because this is exactly what I’ve been feeling the past 3 months. The deadline I set for my first draft is just around the corner. October 30th is 4 days away. Over the past 3 months, I have sat, on numerous occasions, surrounded by the many journals from England, my grama’s letters, my letters to Adam, Adam’s letter to me, blog posts and emails, completely immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. It’s a lot. I would imagine in the journals, notes and letters combined there are several hundred thousand words to go through, to organize and to craft into a story. It has been overwhelming. I sometimes don’t even know where to start.
The good news is, I’m still going. I may not meet my deadline in 4 days, but I am happy to report that I’m still going. Still showing up to the page and scripting my heart out. I don’t even feel like it’s really a choice anymore, I am feeling called to do this. It’s what I think about when I get out of bed in the morning and is with me until I rest my head at night. I didn’t realize that creativity could have that kind of power over someone, but it does.
There of course has been some FUN in the mix as well. I’ve joined an online writing group that has brought some incredible ladies into my life who are also on the journey of memoir writing. It feels amazing to know that I am not alone in all of this and it has been an honour to witness the process for each and every one of them.
The other thing to note, is that the reason I chose October 30th as a deadline, was because it will be 2 years since the launch of Life’s Letter. Which means this idea has been in my everyday orbit for 2 and a half years. Knowing that this is likely the halfway point makes me want to jump for joy and cringe, all at the same time. I’ve already thought so much about this project, that the thought of it haunting me for 2 more years seems unbearable, AND what is also true, is that the desire to see it in print, even just for my future children to hold in their hands, will keep me writing.
When my parents recently came to BC to visit our new home, they brought my Grama’s original letters for me. I didn’t even have the originals in England for the fear of something happening to them. Having the letters on my desk, staring up at me as I write, gives me a feeling of connection to the purpose of all of this in the first place. These letters are a gift and they remind me that my Grama wrote them, almost 7 decades ago, word by word.