Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Take to the Sky
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, is a popular work detailing an author's experience with writing, and a particularly adept one at that. The title was inspired by her father's advice to a younger brother, attempting to finish a report on birds for school in only one day ("Just take it bird by bird), and her own method for writing takes a similar approach. Spelling out the steps of the development process for burgeoning writers - from "Shitty First Drafts" to "How to You Know When You're Done?" - with honesty and heart, Lamott teaches how to keep your eyes open, and see the possibilities of where your words can take you, whether that's to a publisher or simply to a greater feeling of fulfillment for yourself and your abilities as a writer.
The book, as a tool for writing, had some pretty great advice. The options Lamott gave for stimulating writing practice was sound, and even in reading it, I was ready to leap off of my copy and get to scribbling. However, while the book was exceptional in its inspiration for writing, it got there not from the motivation of the advice, per say, but from the author's personal anecdotes and background.
Lamott's personal voice was exceptionally strong, and its force was a little close to off-putting in the beginning, simply because I'm pretty used to the idea of a book on writing being a little more objective... or have I just been spending too much time with dry, old textbooks? Lamott's book, however, was entirely her own, with every word on the paper.
In some ways, this was unhelpful, particularly as she warns against taking on the voice of another author. However, what else is the reader going to do after she waxes poetic for several pages on the benefits of digging to the romantic truth of a "one inch frame," or examining the periphery of your developing "Polaroid" of a plot for overlooked elements? Her own voice is strong, but in some cases, a little more of an encouragement and advice towards developing one's own style and delivery might have been welcome, especially because the author's own is so particularly evident.
Still, the fact that you can tell it is Lamott herself that is speaking lends much credence and authenticity to her advice. She conducts the novel as if teaching on of her creative writing classes, and the overall effect is that of an easy approach and comfortable instruction.
Lamott's work is a match of sound advice and conversational delivery, peppered with many of her own personal stories, and founded on her own ample experience as an author. While her own sense of story can sometimes impede the instruction, the advice is bestowed by a seasoned veteran, and it shows. In the end, if you're going braindead on your arduous way towards your NaNoWriMo goal, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy, and expanding your word counts and world-building by way of a little of Lamott's helpful advice.