This morning I finished the section, “Help Along the Way,” from Bird by Bird. I’m nearing the end of this book on writing and life. Today’s reading is all about inspiration for writing and where ideas come from.
One way we as writers can preserve our sacred stories is to record them in letters to our loved ones. Lamott talks about writing to her son, Sam, about what it was like to grow up as a Giants fan and in crafting the letter she draws us sentiments toward the game of baseball itself.
If I were to write a letter to my daughter I might choose to write the story of how I met her father. I would record all the little details from hearing his thick accent for the first time to getting butterflies when my friend mentioned his name after class one day. I might also write a letter to her about my many memories as the firstborn. From being the “trial” child (to say “I get it” when she is really frustrated with me) to what it really means to look out for the little ones would be the biggest themes of that letter.
Part of being a writer is preserving those stories.
Just over a year ago my family lost a gem. My great-grandma was a beautiful woman who impacted me in so many positive ways. After her funeral I sat down to craft a short poem to preserve her memory. I chose to do it in the form of a letter to my great grandma. This was published in November 2015, but rereading this letter today made me smile so here is Frozen Mochas and Fudge Donuts, a Letter to Great Grandma.
I remember the birth of my coffee addiction.
I was around nine or ten.
The frozen mochas stored in their glass containers,
Held in the freezer,
Thawed and served with chocolate fudgies.
The cement ramp leading to your home.
The creaking stairs announcing my arrival,
As I wound my way up to the second floor apartment.
I remember the joy on your face when you welcomed me in.
The way your place felt like home.
Photographs of the ones you loved strewn throughout the immaculate rooms.
The excitement as you led me into the kitchen.
And atop a bright colored place mat sat a ceramic plate;
A doughnut all for me,
And a frozen mocha.
This is where I go when I taste the cold espresso today.
My mind takes me back to those visits.
How precious are those memories: my great-grandmother, frozen mochas, and fudge doughnuts.
Nothing is more discouraging than a good ol’ bought of Writer’s Block. You sit staring at the blinking cursor on the blank page with doubts about whether your writing will ever amount to anything. In the case of running out of ideas the worst possible thing to do is to walk away. To choose not to write in those moments is to give in to the enemy’s voice in your head chanting, “You’re no writer.”
According to Lamott every writer should pen 300 words a day. Some days you may fly through that word count and exceed it. Other days you may produce 300 words about absolutely nothing, but it’s better than producing nothing.
Last year I had the chance to meet accomplished writer, Mindy McGinnis. While talking with her she told me that she believes there is no such thing as Writer’s Block. To her, there is only productivity and laziness. I tend to agree with that statement. As a writer, I view the world with a filter of vivid words and descriptions. The images stored in my brain are enough to inspire thousands of stories. Some days it take a little longer (and a little more coffee) to call up those images, but they are there just ready to be used in writing. There is no shortage of inspiration out there for writers.
Writer’s Block is defeated when we sit down and perform the discipline of writing. When we crank out our 300 words per day we find inspiration. It will not all be perfect writing, but there is something to write each day. Don’t lose heart!
The Ameri Brit Mom