School Lunches and Polaroids

The next two chapters in Bird by Bird are focused on the beginning drafts and inspiration for writing. So many of Lamott’s antecdotes resonate with me and have helped me as I begin to develop my first draft of a new story. Lamott inspires me to see the writing material in the every day moments of life and to focus on small projects: page by page, chapter by chapter, bird by bird.

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School Lunches

The single hardest element of writing is finding the inspiration for your story. At times ideas may come to you in dreams or visions, but other times it takes a little soul searching to nail down a subject. In this chapter of Bird by Bird, Lamott discusses that inspiration can come from the most mundane of ideas. When students come to her struggling with what to write about she generally points them toward the universal experience of school lunches. She tells her students to describe their lunch in detail. Before long, the writers have launched themselves into a memory-filled writing session equipped with sensory images and details that were just waiting to be unpacked. While some like Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) would advise an exercise in zen to get the creative juices flowing, Lamott would prescribe a good old fashion visit to your childhood to fuel your writing.

Polaroids

“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t-and, in fact, you aren’t supposed to-know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.”-Anne Lamott

When we sit down to write oftentimes we are paralyzed by the unknown. Most writing sessions have a purpose and we know where we are headed, but the road to get there may seem unclear. There are days when this is exciting, and days that we cannot seem to lift off because we let uncertainty plague our minds.

As someone who has finished an entire novel let me say that there were days that I sat and stared at a blank screen. I set out to work on Chapter 6, but had no idea what would happen in that chapter. Sure, I had a basic outline, but so much of a first draft is letting your characters speak for themselves. It’s about stepping into their world and letting them introduce themselves and their problems. As you begin to write you should see the story slowly develop the way a Polaroid picture develops. At first it may be unclear, but with time the images will begin to emerge. This chapter was a beautiful metaphor with which I could identify.

Just a reminder for those of you interested in purchasing the Five Minute Friday book (which includes a poem written by yours truly) use my link to purchase a copy on Amazon and all profits will be divided equally between two ministries in South Africa: The Vine School in Cape Town, and The Ten Dollar Tribe–so we’d love to sell as many books as possible to impact these fantastic ministries!

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The Ameri Brit Mom

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