Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Help Along the Way – Letters

“When you don’t know what else to do, when you’re really stuck and filled with despair and self-loathing and boredom, but you can’t just leave your work alone for a while and wait, you might try telling part of your history–part of a character’s history–in the form of a letter. The letters informality just might free you from the tyranny of your perfectionism.” ~p. 172

Arrgghh. Another perfectionism. Again.

This is what I actually do at first when I try to make an outline of my story.

Oh yes, dear fellas, I used to make an outline for the story I’m about to write, to mkae sure that I wouldn’t get sidetracked.

I know, I know, I love free writing, and I still do, but even in this part of free writing, some outlines might help.

Or at least that’s what I believe.

I remember writing timeframes in chronological order for a story I was writing.

Well, in outlines, you usually write simple chunks of words instead of a complete sentence in a full body paragraph, right?

But sometimes, a simple fragment sentence doesn’t help. So then I’d write a letter to myself.

Yes, to myself. Does that sound selfish to you?

Nevertheless, the fact is that I wrote a message for myself.

“So after this, what Eddie would want to do is to shut himself in his room and think about his dead girlfriend. He would grieve until his brother, Samuel forced to enter the room and asked Eddie to stop grieving and move on with his life.”

Then I would transform that message into sentences, dialogues and paragraphs.

Or sometimes, I would do that whenever I still feel like writing, yet my time is extremely limited. So I would write and an outline, combined with short messages to myself to remind me on what’s supposed to happen next.

Well, so far, that works. Really does.

Of course there’s still a possibility that after I continued my writing at another time, I might read the message and think that my former idea is stupid. Then I’d write a brand new sentence. But at least I’ve tried to tell myself and remind myself what to do.

At least that’s what I think.

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Published by

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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