Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Lamott vs My Writing

I've been assigned to reflect on Anne Lamott's words while, in actuality, reflecting on my own process, sense, and discovery of writing.  How do I write?

While reading Anne Lamott's book, bird by bird, she starts off by mentioning the never ending writing pot of childhood.  With this, I am brought back to where I actually began to write.  From the time I was an elementary schooler, I've enjoyed books and writing little snippets of words down.  I've gone through an abundant number of journals of ideas and short stories that don't make any sense now but were brilliant to me at the time.  When I'd show them to people who wanted to know about it, they'd nod and smile, telling me that's wonderful.  Then they'd ask how math was going.

Writing is not believed to be the most practical occupation out there.  Maybe they're right, but it genuinely fills me with satisfaction in a way that math and science never did.  That might make me crazy and ideal minded, but doesn't it matter that I am happy?

Whatever the answer, I will continue to write. 

But I digress.  This is not a rant about the illusion that may have been cast over me or the judgements on being an English major.  This is supposed to be about reflection.

If I were to look through the numerous word documents stored on my hard drive or the bajillion journals sitting in a drawer somewhere over the rainbow, I'd find changes in how I write today.  When I began writing, I tried to start at the beginning of a story, or what I thought would be the beginning, because this was proper according to my teachers.  Now I start wherever an idea wants me to.  Sometimes this results in me starting at the beginning, more often in the middle, and frequently at the end.  I write all these bits in pieces on separate word documents or pages in my leather journal.  Eventually, they will be smashed together and smoothed out.  At least, this is the hope.

Lamott says to plow out that first shitty draft in whatever manner possible.  I recall now a Stephen King quote where he says, "The scariest moment is always just before you start."  Somewhere in my closet there is a t-shirt with this saying.  Also, I don't remember who it is, but someone also said to just shut up, sit down, and write, which is another t-shirt in my closet.  All of these are pretty accurate.  In many cases, though, I have no choice BUT to write.  Otherwise, I have this constant nagging at the back of my mind of something waiting impatiently to be told, gnawing away at my focus until I admit defeat and try to record it.  I think this is probably why I have so many different things started on my computer.  Now I just have to finish something.

I like Lamott's  advice on carrying around index cards.  In lieu of those, I tote around post it notes.  When those seem to run away, I usually have a pen on hand to write on myself.  The trick then is to write it down somewhere else before the ink fades.  Eventually, those post it notes turn into bulleted lists in my journal or laptop.  The origens of those words that scribble their way down range from what Lamott recommends as paying attention to life and how it communicates to you.  Other times, it's just thoughts, random images that pop into my head, or nightmares/dreams that never seem to stop plaguing me.  Maybe this is a good thing, but I really miss full nights of sleep.

This is becoming a lengthy response, so I should probably wrap this up.  I agree with a vast majority of what Lamott mentions about writing.  Needing to pay attention to ones surroundings, delving into memories for material, feeling protective over one's pieces, and the curse of perfectionism all make sense.  There's been a many word documents thrown into the abyss because I couldn't gag my inner perfectionist.  Other works I no longer had interest in, or I grew away from the narrator in the story. I use a lot of emotions from childhood memories to form a story or make characters among a setting I am familiar with from my small days.  This seems like something natural to a writer.


  1. I love the idea of t-shirts in the closet, and writing on yourself. What a wonderful way to get ideas/characters/images down, and to motivate yourself. First tattoo will say ....?

    1. If I could have a tattoo, I feel like it would be of a masked fairy or something like Never Grow Up. Sadly, I cannot get tattoos. Something about the pigment of the ink doesn't react well with my skin.

  2. I think one of the saddest parts about primary education is how little emphasis creative writing gets. I was kind of like you where I felt that most people didn't think of writing as a serious occupation, compared to other fields.