Wednesday, February 6, 2013

on writing - anne lamott

The realities of writing via Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird:

"But how?" my students ask.  "How do you actually do it?"
You sit down, I say.  You try to sit down at approximately the
same time every day.  This is how you train your unconscious
to kick in for you creatively.

The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out
and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is
going to see it and that you can shape it later...  The second draft
is the up draft - you fix it up.  And the third draft is the dental
draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it's loose or
cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.

Just don't pretend you know more about your characters than
they do, because you don't.  Stay open to them.  It's teatime and
all the dolls are at the table.  Listen.  It's that simple.

Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to
your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing
and saying things and bumping into each other.

There shouldn't be just a single important character in your
work for whom you have compassion.  You need to feel it even
for the villain - in fact, especially for the villain.

Everyone I know flails around, kvetching and growing
despondent, on the way to finding a plot and structure that work.
You are welcome to join the club.

Sometimes intuition needs coaxing, because intuition is a little
shy.  But if you try not to crowd it, intuition often wafts up
from the soul or subconscious, and then becomes a tiny fitful
little flame.  It will be blown out by too much compulsion and
manic attention, but will burn quietly when watched with gentle

Get it all down.  Let it pour out of you onto the page.  Write an
incredibly shitty, self-indulgent, whiny, mewling first draft.  Then
take out as many of the excesses as you can.

The great writers keep writing about the cold dark place within,
the water under a frozen lake or the secluded, camouflaged hole.
The light they shine on this hole, this pit, helps us cut away or
step around the bush and brambles; then we can dance around the
rim of the abyss, holler into it, measure it, throw rocks in it, and
still not fall in.  It can no longer swallow us up.  And we can get
on with things.

We write to expose the underexposed.  If there is one door in the
castle you have been told not to go through, you must.
Otherwise you'll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you've
already been in.  Most human beings are dedicated to keeping
that one door shut. But the writer's job is to see what's behind it,
to see the black unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable
into words - not just into any words but if we can, into rhythm
and blues.

You are going to have to give and give and give, or there's no
reason for you to be writing.  You have to give from the deepest
part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and
the giving is going to have to be its own reward.

You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as
you hear them, as they come to you.  You can either set brick as a
laborer or as an artist.  You can make the work a chore, or you can
have a good time.

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