Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Writing – School Lunches & Polaroids

School Lunches

Well, when I first read this chapter, I was wondering where the hell is Anne going with this. All I get is the example of school lunches and the food we have in it. Well, I know it’s just an illustration and examples, but still, I was like, “Well, this is no different than what I’ve read in the previous chapter!” But apparently, as she wrote this example about the boy against the fence with a crappy lunch, apparently what she meant was that sometimes we just ought to write and write and write whatever we have in minds. At the time we wrote it, we might not think that our writing is important, or even relevant to the story we’re currently working, but just keep writing. And writing. And writing.

“Now who knows if any of this is usable material?” ~p. 37

Yes, who knows, right?

Sometime in the future, when you’re having a writer’s block (and I just slapped myself as I’m writing this), your writing archives might be useful.

I know there’s a reason why I started those random stories!

One day, when I find the perfect moment in my story, one of those stories might fit into a scene, or a chapter, and there I got a story!

Or maybe we shouldn’t just copy-paste those writing archives right away to our story. But those writings might inspire us with another similar stories that’ll help us complete our story. Or perhaps there’ll be one or two characters that you could squeeze in your stories for they inspire you and help you to complete your writings. Well, they might not be the main characters, but they could always be one of those supporting characters, or even the antagonists.

Yes, my friends. Keep on writing.

“And even though what I’ve quoted here is shitty-first-draft stuff, the boy against the fence appeared out of nowhere–I had no idea when I started writing that he was in my memory. To me, he is the most important thing that came out of this exercise. Tomorrow when I sit down to work on my novel, he will be someone who matters to me, whom I want to work with, he will be someone who matters to me, whom I want to work with, get to know, who has something important to say or somewhere only he can take me.” ~p. 38

Hmmm, now that makes sense.

I remember when smart phone was not even exist yet, and even distributed yet in this country–when cell phone was only there to help you make a phone call and text your friends–before I could actually transform my cell phone into a mini notebook, I would bring my notes everywhere, even at school, I would always have at least one extra note, saved specifically for my stories or any stupid ideas that might popped out in my head. Then, when the ideas are coming, I would write and write and write there, and then when I think the story is good enough and many of my friends like it, I would then came home and copy what I wrote into my PC. The thing is, whenever I tried to copy it to my computer, then another ideas would come up. Then I would write another story, another word, which is still related, but I couldn’t help but to improvise here and there.

I guess that’s what Lamott means with the shitty-first-drafts, eh?


“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t–and, in fact, you’re not supposed to–know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.” ~p. 39

And I thought, here I am, a terrible writer with incomplete concepts who can never complete her story because of those crappy incomplete concepts!

I sure was freaking out (again) when I read that line.

Excuse me, are you telling me that having an incomplete concept is normal? And that most writers tend to have this problem as well? Even the J. K. Rowling? The J. D. Salinger? The Mitchell Faber? The Jostein Gaarder? The Jhumpa Lahiri? All of them? This is a bad joke, isn’t it?

I am so much in awe of J. K. Rowling, btw, especially after I found out that she spend years and years to complete the Harry Potter series. That she had been thinking of this boy with a lightning scar on his forehead ever since I was a little kid and barely know who or even what Harry Potter is. Then as I read the book, I felt like I was taken into this magical world with so much wonders and mystery. Of course, my friends might argue and protest here, scolding for liking the movie less–sorry, the movie is great and all, and I’m a huge fan of Tom Felton, Emma Watson and Dan Radcliffe, but it was the book that made me so much in love with Harry Potter.

Then I freaked out when I read somewhere in the internet about the fact that even the J. K. Rowling has to scrap her writings and omit some characters here and there before she finally published Harry Potter and it made a huge success. I remember I read about her comments saying that she hated omitting those characters, especially since some of them really charmed her, but she needed to anyway, for the sake of the story.

Hell I was freaking out.

Short story  is a challenge, but come on, it’s Harry-freaking-Potter! Novels which has more than 500 pages in each book! Are you telling me that she scrapped her writing all over the place in those books?

“Well, isn’t it why Harry Potter now become the successful series as we know it now?”

Yes, I know. Perfections are mostly painful.

But are you telling me that even the Harry-freaking-Potter series also came from an incomplete concept?

*freaking out*

4 thoughts on “Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Writing – School Lunches & Polaroids

  1. I am a big believer in just writing and writing and writing some more. From pages and pages you might only get a few “usable” lines or concepts, but you’ve cleared all that “junk” out of your head to make way for fresh, new thoughts!

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