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ROW80: Inner Critic Smackdown – Bird by Bird and Tweet by Tweet

Antique doll head. (photo by Tui Snider)
Antique doll head. (photo by Tui Snider)

ROW80: Inner Critic Smackdown – Bird by Bird and Tweet by Tweet

The White Screen of Death

My blog was stricken by the dreaded White Screen of Death (aka WSOD) last night, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do my ROW80 check-in today. The dreaded WSOD happens when you crash the WordPress database. In my case, I tried on an incompatible theme and – yikes – my blog turned into a plain white page for the next 12 hours.

Thanks to an old pal and a new pal (Thanks Doug! Thanks Susan!), all is well, and I learned a valuable lesson. Plus, I was also able to make my most heroic sounding tweet ever: “I was trying on new themes, deleted the culprit & defeated the white screen of death! (Don’t I sound valiant?)”

ROW80 Check-in

I haven’t done much since Saturday on my Sinclair Island memoir – unless you count writing in my head so much that I can’t be trusted to operate heavy machinery or fill the bathtub. Does anyone else get kinda spacey when immersed in writing projects?

I did, however, find even more loose pages to transcribe (yea – words!) as well as a book on the history of Sinclair Island I can use for fact checking. (I wasn’t sure if I spelled the Lummi Indian name for the island correctly in my diaries, for instance.)

Inner Critic Smackdown: Bird by Bird and Tweet by Tweet

In Saturday’s ROW80 check-in, I mentioned how my inner critic recently reared her ugly head. I think she’s been working out, too, because she is burly these days. I’m feeling much better after the Twitter replies in response to my writerly angst. Pam Mandel, for instance, sent a tweet suggesting I re-read Anne Lamott’s wonderful writing memoir, Bird by Bird and then, “smack that critic with your book.”

That critic-smacking image is useful! Now, when my inner critic pops up, I just imagine chucking my book at her. I can’t see her face clearly, but the book (hardback, of course, leather-bound) is so big that it takes both hands to throw it. When the book hits my inner critic’s face, she turns into a pile of harmless fluff, like dandelion seeds. Makes me smile every time!

Sadly, I can’t find my copy of Bird by Bird. I may have loaned it out. I did find a couple good blog posts on Anne Lamott’s approach to dealing with one’s inner critic. Charlotte Morganti blogs about Anne Lamott and in her post, What’s the big deal about your inner critic? as does Rachel Friedman in her post, My Inner Critic .

In fact, next time I’m at the book store, I’m gonna look for Rachel Friedman’s travel memoir, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure as well as Bird by Bird.

The Row80 Linky list:

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  1. […] realized I had more time to write again, I found myself looking for my writing books after reading Mental Mosaics Inner Critic Smackdown – Bird By Bird and Tweet by Tweet (Thanks Tui!). It reminded me of my favorite writing book, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie […]

  2. Michelle Michelle

    I like what you guys are usually up too. This kind of clever work and coverage! Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for stopping by. Your link is broken, so I sent you an email.


  3. I discovered the name of the writing book that I couldn’t remember yesterday that is one of my favorites, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I have read a lot of books on writing and her book spoke to me at a deep level. Plus I loved that it was such a little book (the first edition that came out) only a few inches square, and was easy to carry around. I have read it several times.

    It was over ten years ago that I read Bird by Bird and it probably triggered me and I wasn’t ready to look at whatever it was at that time. I have decided to get the book again and read it to see if it still has the same effect or if I have resolved whatever it triggered in me.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Bird by Bird.


  4. Hi Tui,

    Great job with the inner critic smackdown. I think I’ll try that image on myself and see how it works. I keep an index card with my favorite lessons from Lamott’s book posted on my wall. It says “Bird by bird. Short assignments. Shitty first drafts.” A great reminder. Best of luck for the rest of the week.

  5. i have never heard of the book Morgan, but shall add it to my list. I love your quote. I do love that book. So glad we got together tonight #commenthour love

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      HI Cindee,

      Yes, last night’s #commenthour was lively and fun!. Great to see you there! :)


  6. I just read Bird by Bird for the first time in January and – WOW – was it helpful. It is not only a must-read for all writers, but also a must-remember (the most impossible thing to be of all). Thank you for giving links to those who have written their reactions to the book, because we each glean our own important piece from the book and sometimes we need the parts we’ve forgotten.
    I read the book with the Write On Edge group online, so I know they did some posts on the book as well (I think there were three), if you wish to read them along with your reread of Lamott’s book.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Nicole,

      I’m gonna hunt for my copy this weekend – or buy another copy. That’s one book I need on the nightstand these days!

      I’ll have to look for those Write On Edge posts. You always point out the best stuff online!


  7. I’ve never heard of Bird by Bird but I’m always looking for something new to read!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Marie Noelle,

      Nice seeing you at #commenthour last night. :) Thanks for stopping by!


  8. It has been a long time since I read Bird by Bird, I seemed to remember something about it I didn’t like but I can’t remember now. I have other books on writing that I have enjoyed much more than that one. One of my favorites that I just went in search of but couldn’t find and of course couldn’t remember the title so I went in search online and found this quote from one of my favorite authors Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love. I loved this quote so much I had to share it here. I believe I will probably print it and hang it where I can see it every day. :D

    “As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”

    How great is that, if she hadn’t persisted millions of people would have been deprived of her wonderful book.


    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Wow, Morgan!

      That’s a fabulous quote. Thank you so much! It’s a bit long to stitch on a pillow, but – wow – I’m gonna cut and paste Gilbert’s words somewhere very prominently, like right at the start of my rough draft! :)

      Always good to see you here. Thanks for stopping by!

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