05 February 2014

bird by bird

Reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird for the first time, I feel as though I am no longer alone. Suddenly there is someone else who rocks as she writes, who struggles to tear the words away from her demons, and who can barely hear her characters over the buzzing.
As she talks about her love and fear of writing, I remember the reasons I began writing in the first place and why I have continued. I am writing a creative piece for my SIP because I want to have a piece of work that speaks for me. I want to wrestle the truth to the ground and perhaps find others who are flailing under the same burdens. I want to feel that “sense of larger significance, of meaning” (Lamott xix).
She proceeds through her writing process nearly exactly as I do beginning with overheard tidbits, turning details around in your mind, and then gritting your teeth through the much-dreaded actual writing. The value of her father’s advice, to write “by prearrangement with yourself” (xxii), has become so clear to me these past two weeks. I have carved out six hours every week to work on campus and add more on weekends if I can. Working in two hour blocks keeps me from becoming scattered and hopeless under the size of the task.  Suddenly you just have to show up every day. You no longer have to fill your head with the entire story or the yells of all your characters at once; you need only see and describe one room or one feeling at a time. Suddenly, finishing this piece seems doable; maybe it won’t destroy me.
Another truth Lamott includes is that “the act of writing is its own reward” (xxvi). Simply by working through all of the details of crawling into someone else’s skin, I can glorify the Lord and bring Him pleasure. All I have to do is keep moving forward.
Still, there is the great struggle I face and which is not brushed off lightly here, which is that writing “will not make [you] well” (xxx). I so often find myself at the end of a draft, desperate to feel healed and rejuvenated only to discover that it has simply stirred the dirt up inside of me more than before. But, that is okay. Just because I do not find peace in this does not mean that I am wasting my time. So long as my “writing is about telling the truth,” I will succeed (3).
Another piece of the puzzle is that “you own what happened to you” (6). True, my piece is fiction, but it is also deeply imbedded in my emotional psyche and so grounded in the tangle of truth, lies, and sin that is my own life, that I must understand the importance of accepting the responsibility for what I am saying as well as knowing that what I am saying is true. In the end, it doesn’t matter what other people think of it.
More than anything I want to make people notice…to see these people as they are, broken and desperate and beautiful. They may not understand them, but I want others to at least see them and acknowledge them. They may not exist in reality, but their realistic molds have formed many like them. 

2 comments :

Unknown said...

I read Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith this summer. I have been aching to read Bird by Bird. It was one of those books that moved me so deeply that I will always return to it. It had me crying in my hammock one minute and chortling half a second later.

Sam said...

Oh that was me btw -Sam

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