After my revision experiment on the blog, I’m feeling re-energized in my writing life. I wrote yesterday morning and I was sailing along. Sometimes when I’m not feeling this wonderful way about writing, I’ll pick up Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It is one of the greatest books on writing that I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot. Many books on writing are pie in the sky reflections. Not very helpful at all. However, Lamott gives you practical knowledge on writing, like her note card system for keeping up with ideas. If you haven’t read it, it’s a must. We’re going to read a chapter from Bird by Bird in the writing workshop that I’m offering in a few weeks. (There’s still time to sign up!) Here’s a quote from Lamott that I love (and I love many):
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
— Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)
Now I know for some of you this is a little mushy. I mean she is using the words soul and hearts and spirits. However, writing DOES decrease our sense of isolation and it happens through that wonderful sense of connection we get with a character, a setting, a line of dialogue that rings completely true. We recognize ourselves in what we read and write. Once you find this connection in reading or writing, you’ll never let it go.
I can’t help myself, so I’ll include another quote that got me through NC State’s MFA program when there were days I questioned what I was doing with my life. I had this quote up in my cubicle, and I read it all the time:
E.L. Doctorow said once that “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
This is SO true. You can’t know what your character will do next. You just have to trust them. Trust the process. Trust your instincts and shut up the voices of doubt. You can write 500 words, and then you can write 500 more, but that’s the only way to get there.