Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: The Writing Frame of Mind – The Moral Point of View

“If you find that your start a number of stories or pieces that you don’t even bother finishing, that you lose interest or faith in them along the way, it may be that there is nothing at their center about which you care passionately.” ~p. 103

Ouch. I hate to admit it, but I’m sure she’s right this time.

Whenever you read any of my blog post that really seems like a bunch of nonsense? That’s it.

Whenever you read a super short post? Most of the time, that’s it. (Not trying to imply that most short posts are the heartless ones.)

Well, I don’t wanna infer that I have such an amazing blog here either. I like my blog, period, and I don’t wanna change a thing in it.

You love my blog? Thank you so much.

You hate it? Critics, please!

Well, that’s not the point of this post, though.

I remember when I wrote my first draft in the short story that I sent for a competition in 2009. I finished the first story, but as I read it, I feel like… I feel like it’s not at all that I’d imagined it would be. I somehow felt much less connected to the story. So I scrapped it, and began to write a brand new one right away. I barely knew what I wanted to write at that time, but I thought I’d just typed and typed and typed, and see how it’d go. Later, after I finished it, I would then compare and contrast the first and the second story, and see which one I liked better.

Finally, I felt that the second story is much more personal to me, and I felt like being a part of it, like it’s what I’ve been wanting to say all these time.

So I finally sent it.

“When you start of writing, if you are anything like me, you may want to fill the page with witticisms and shimmering insights so that the world will see how uniquely smart and sensitive you are.” ~p. 104

Ahhh, I love the part of tricking people into thinking that I’m smart or all that stuffs. Don’t think it ever worked, though, but I always love witty tricks.

I guess this is where you always tried to catch your reader’s attention in the introduction. As unimportant as it might seem, it’s probably one of the most important thing in writing, I suppose.

I remember my cousin reading my published short story once, and my mother asked him, what do you think made me earned a second place, instead of the first. Then, my cousin told her something I never expected would come from him:

“Well, this is interesting. The most obvious differences between Dian’s story and the first winner is, I think, the way they begin and end their stories. In the winner’s short story, he/she started it with something very interesting, that would definitely catch the reader’s attention the moment they read the first line, while Dian’s introduction to the story is, compared to the winner, rather boring. However, towards the end, the story began even more interesting and ended very nicely. In contrast to this, the winner’s story didn’t end as interesting as Dian’s story. I guess that’s why.”

Well, of course, I barely know why so. I really am doubting my ability to do telekinesis, including mind-reading, but somehow, my cousin’s opinion is something to be considered. It’s a great input, I must say.

With such inputs in mind, perhaps, then I began to read The Crimson Petal and the White. And maybe, with such shaped-mindset, it is why I admired Faber’s work in that book. He began his introduction with the simplest, commonest sentence: “Watch your step.”

Okay, I know that perhaps not every one got struck by the simpleness of this one boring sentence. Perhaps it’s just me.

But the fact that Faber caught my attention right away with that sentence is what makes me adore him so much. The moment I read that sentence, I was stunned. Who in the world would start an introduction with “Watch your step” anyway? And why did I got so bewitched with that sentence? I was amazed and at the same time wondering what could have crossed his minds when he chose the dictions he used when writing that book?

The moment I read that first sentence, I imagined that I was coming out of a carriage, with the narrator, standing on the street–or the entrance of the book–ready to greet me and take me, and guide me into the world inside the book. I was fascinated by the beauty of the word arrangements and I fall in love with the book already when I read the second page.

Well, okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.

Just expressing what I feel, by the way.

 And then, as we moved forward in our writing, we began to share our emotions, our thoughts, and most importantly, our beliefs, to the readers.

“To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care.” ~p. 107

I second that, Anne Lamott.

As a writer, we act as a mediator who tried to share what we believe and what we think of life and everything in it in our writing.

In The Crimson Petal and the White, another thing that really fascinates me is the way he portrayed people from different societies, along with their mindset and different kinds of beliefs in and about life. Take for example Sugar. My favorite lines of Sugar is:

“God damn God, and all His horrible filthy creation.”

Okay, fine. Maybe that’s too bitter.

And it might not be a good thing to say, especially in front of kids.

Not to mention it might be offensive for some people.

But you can’t help but admit that there are people who actually think bitterly of their own creator just like Sugar.

He portrayed the life of prostitutes in the Victorian-era England, along with William Rackham, who later came forward as Sugar’s ‘rescuer,’ by making her his mistress. And not just Sugar, Faber also told the story of Sugar’s friend, Caroline, another prostitutes who, of course wasn’t as lucky as Sugar.

Then suddenly, in the second part of the book, he switched to a complete different society, by portraying the life of Henry Rackham, who were determined to become a clergyman, as well as Mrs. Fox, another church-goer who was involved in some kind of volunteer work, trying to ‘save’ prostitutes from the destruction of hell. Hence, it’s the complete opposite of William and Sugar’s life.

I’m not an expert in literature, but wow, I was in awe with the book.

I was fascinated–really fascinated–with the way Faber portrayed many different people, with different mindset, as well as coming from different classes of societies.

I think what made me so fond of the book is the way he wrote about complete different people. Ones so innocent, and ones so… bitter.

In p. 107, Lamott quoted the fourteenth Dalai Lama, “My true religion is kindness,” but then went on saying that, “Unfortunately it does not make great literature.”

Cinderella is so old-fashioned, indeed.

“…the acknowledgement that in the midst of ourselves there is still a good part that hasn’t been corrupted and destroyed, that we can tap into and reclaim, is most reassuring.” ~p. 106

So I guess, this is why I stick to watching House.

As annoying as he is portrayed in the series, we, the audiences, always melting in scenes where House shows even a little affection toward his patience.

Remember the episodes where sometimes patients decided to give up, but then House decided that he wouldn’t care and would fight till the very end to save his patient? Even when somehow it seems so cruel because it would mean letting his patients to suffer excruciatingly. And it gets annoying when we sometimes realize or put into thinking that House isn’t actually thinking of the patient. He cares for nothing but himself, as well the patient’s case, which intrigues him. What he cares about is actually the mystery and the puzzles in the case, not the patient himself.

Yes, we hate Gregory House. But we love him as well.

“So write about the things that are most important to you.” ~p. 108

Will do, ma’am. I will. And I hope I’m not procrastinating this time.

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Laksmi

An MA student at Waseda University, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyo, Japan. An avid reader. A language geek as well. And a book hoarder.

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