Last night just before I shut my eyes I read some lines from Anne Lamott’s bird by bird.
If you’re a writer and you haven’t heard of bird by bird then do yourself a favour and buy yourself a copy. You won’t regret it. The subtitle of bird by bird is Some Instructions on Writing and Life, but it’s so much more than this. Yesterday the writing hadn’t been going so well. I don’t know if it was because it was a public holiday and there were distractions, like sleeping in, and having The Loved One around, but the writing wasn’t satisfying. I felt uninspired, a little lost, not sure if I was going in the right direction. And then last night I read a small chapter called Looking Around and found these lines, which stopped me in my tracks and made me think. They made me re-evaluate where I was up to, and why perhaps the day’s writing hadn’t gone so well. And, more importantly, why it had seemed so joyless.
The lines were these:
When what we see catches us off guard, and when we write
it as realistically and openly as possible, it offers hope.
And, a little higher up in the same paragraph:
Anyone who wants to can be surprised by the beauty or pain
of the natural world...
I put the lines together. I thought, Ah, that’s what I haven’t been doing today. I’ve been writing without emotion or thought, without taking the time to look around and describe what my character is looking at, and how and why the sun setting in the trees as she drives home, for instance, might make an impression on her, and what that impression is.
And so this morning I will be backtracking, and rewriting what I wrote yesterday, but this time with some purpose, and with Lamott’s words not far away.
As a postscript, I think I got more out of that short chapter and those few lines than I would have if I had sat down and read the whole book.
Sometimes it’s a matter of focus.
And sometimes one is blessed. You find exactly what you need when you need it.
* Anne Lamott, bird by bird