This Saturday I’m multi-tasking. My husband is away at a coach’s training for our daughter’s first basketball season and I’m working on writing while heating up a healthy breakfast and entertaining my Christmas-anxious daughter.
Saturday mornings are my favorite. I pour myself a few cups of coffee and sit at the kitchen table where the natural light from the window helps me to wake up. I’m never more productive than on a Saturday morning, and that’s why I like to start it reading a little bit about writing. Today I started the final section of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Over these last few Saturdays of 2016 I will be reading about “Help Along the Way.” Here’s a look at the two chapters I read this morning:
Writers are observers. We are note takers and list makers. As we live our lives we notice things that others do not. We are also human. Our memories are only capable of retaining so much. So as we observe, we lose most of those thoughts and descriptions to our own minds. Anne Lamott describes in this chapter about how she attempts to keep the thoughts and memories that she wants to include in her writing.
She uses index cards.
Her home is full of stacks of cards. Some are lined with vivid language while others contain just a word that triggers an entire memory.
I use a small notebook and my phone. I keep the notebook in my purse along with an arsenal of pens for any occasion. As I hear dialogue or witness a scene I jot them down for future use. If I’m being honest, I haven’t been a great observer lately. I’ve been caught up in my own life and my own thoughts. This chapter was a great reminder that I should always be recording notes. When I’m stuck in traffic-write. When I’m shopping at the mall-write. When I’m in school listening to the bogus reasons my students couldn’t finish their homework-write.
Whenever we face “writer’s block” we can turn to these thoughts which are already recorded and use them for inspiration.
Writing is not an individual activity. Sure, you spend many hours alone stringing words together, but the process of collecting those words is not a solo venture. As an individual I have a limit to the knowledge I possess. There are things I just cannot imagine or name for that matter. That’s why it is so important to live in community. Being a part of the world of friendship gives us access to information outside of ourselves. We have friends with extensive knowledge about World War II concentration camps, friends with vocabulary rich in cooking terms and analogies, friends with experiences in losing a spouse, friends with experiences in surviving a car accident. It is in these people that many of our stories are born-not our own minds.
It’s easy to seclude ourselves as writers and think that in order to “get things done” we need to be left alone with our craft. That expectation couldn’t be further from the truth. Individually, we are no where near as effective or knowledgeable as we are within our community. Writing isn’t about relying on ourselves. It is actually about relying on those around us for almost all of our inspiration and help as writers.
The Ameri Brit Mom