Over the years, I've read a lot of books by writers (duh) about writing. Some have been helpful. Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird stands out. I whole-heartedly cling to her advice about writing crappy first drafts, perhaps because I haven't much choice. Others, not so much (I never even finished Annie Dillard on writing).
One book, however, stands out in my mind as the best book I've encountered on what being a writer is about: Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter & Tabby Write the Book. Okay, it's a book for beginning readers, with more pictures than words, or nearly. But I absolutely love the picture Rylant paints of the writing life (or, perhaps more accurately, the would-be writing life).
Stuck indoors in a big snowstorm, Mr. Putter decides to follow through on a long-held desire to be a writer. Rylant tells us:
"He had everything a writer needed:
a soft chair,
a warm fire,
and a good cat.
And he had a pen and plenty of paper."
Thus fully equipped, Mr. Putter sits down to begin. After long thought, he comes up with a title for his book. Pleased, he goes and spends four hours fixing a "snack." Then he takes a nap.
This pattern is repeated until the third day, when he "woke up ready to write again. He liked being a writer ready to write." Ouch. All of us who write know that the idea of being a writer is a great deal less work than the reality!
In the end, Mr. Putter is forced to conclude that being a writer isn't so good for him, as it makes him eat too much and take too many naps. Still, he looks forward to the next snowstorm so he can be a writer again.
I have to laugh every time I read this book, even if the laughter is a little rueful. When I can't get started writing, I make coffee and a snack. When I really can't get started, I got out for coffee and a snack. And some days, only the thought of the nap I get at the end (and maybe another snack) can keep me going for even a few paragraphs.
Yes, I think between Anne Lamott and Mr. Putter, I have it figured out. Now, I'm off to write another crappy first draft, then have a snack.