Monday, June 02, 2008

What I'm reading: "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott

I'm only on the second chapter of Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life," but already I'm starting to feel inspired by it. Despite her saying that I'll probably never get published and even if I do, it won't be all I've dreamed it will be, she inspires me. Maybe it's paragraphs like this one:

Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don't get in real life -- wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean. Aren't you? I ask.

And because I had to answer yes, I closed the book and sat at my keyboard. I'm still searching for my muse -- inspiration for that great American novel -- but I feel it's time to write without my muse. To allot a certain amount of time each day to just sit down and write whatever comes to me: the neighbor's yapping dog that sounds like he's being beat to death, the wind in the aspens outside my window, the giant bumblebee that found its way into my kitchen. Just 15 pages into the book and Lamott is making me pay attention. It's possible I'll hate her in another 15 pages or I'll get snarky because hey she published a book, why shouldn't I. But she has already made me laugh and that's usually signals the beginning of something good for me.

My son, Sam, at three and a half, had these keys to a set of plastic handcuffs, and one morning he intentionally locked himself out of the house. I was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper when I heard him stick his plastic keys into the doorknob and try to open the door. Then I heard him say, "Oh shit." My whole face widened, like the guy in Edvard Munch's Scream. After a moment I got up and opened the front door. "Honey," I said, "what'd you just say?" "I said, 'Oh shit,'" he said. "But, honey, that's a naughty word. Both of us have absolutely got to stop using it. Okay?" He hung his head for a moment, nodded, and said, "Okay, Mom." Then he leaned forward and said confidentially, "But I'll tell you why I said 'shit.'" I said Okay, and he said, "Because of the fucking keys!"

Toddlers swearing -- precious and precocious. I plan to post a full review when I've finished reading the entire book. If I'm not too busy writing my novel, that is.

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