This week has been a rewarding one in my writing career. I’ve recently joined an online critique group and have been overwhelmed with the positive and constructive feedback from authors and others aspiring to that title. I’ve met a few writing coaches who have helped me with my letters to agents and I’ve also developed friendships with other writers whose work I admire. Each morning this week I’ve awoken to feedback from people within the group from all over the world. This is something I have needed for a long time. I’ve been longing for a writing community and am so happy to have found a place that feels like home already.
As I open Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott I am happy to say that the wisdom I took from this week’s reading was received right on time. I had been struggling with a story I’m working on and trying to defeat writer’s block. I needed the reminders from both chapters today which encouraged me to look within myself for the moral point of view of my story as well as to my intuition in order to hear the voice of the character I’m currently wrestling with in my mind. I hope you will find my summaries of these chapters insightful!
The Moral Point of View
“There is no point gathering an audience and demanding its attention unless you have something to say that is important and constructive.” (Lamott 108)
Within each person lies a moral compass. An internal directive which distinguishes between good, bad, and evil. Within each reader is the desire to interact with characters and conflicts that test that moral compass and strengthen its tendency toward True North.
Writing is an expression of our moral points of view as authors. We write about problems of our world and mask those things behind fictitious characters and settings. Our stories are born of human experience and blanched in lessons of life.
Although setting out to teach a lesson is seldom our goal as writers we become teachers in our craft as we highlight what is important to us in our novels. I love the quote above by Anne Lamott which speaks to the fact that our stories should all in some way reflect this life and apply to the grander scheme of humanity. There should be something to learn or glean from your work. So what are you trying to tell the world with your story?
One of the most important resources in a writer’s arsenal is their intuition. Many of us had our intuition suppressed long ago as children. Things that we were certain of despite their insanity were scoffed at by adults or peers in our lives. As a writer, you really have to reclaim that intuition. To write from a rational mind only is to create dull stories full of true conflicts and characters based on all of your friends (or enemies.)
When you are able to think outside of the rational, your characters begin to take on a life of their own. Your intuition surrenders to their lives and the world in which they live instead of controlling those aspects of the story.
Anne Lamott uses broccoli as a metaphor for her intuition because of an old skit with Mel Gibson when he is told to, “Listen to your broccoli, it will tell you how to eat it.” It’s the same principal with writing. If you try to dictate your characters and plot then you will end up with a drab reflection of reality. Listen to the characters in your mind. Let them have the freedom to write their own stories. Be the vessel that communicates on their behalf. Do not stifle the irrational mind.
The Ameri Brit Mom