Upon Reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: The Last Class

This  is the end of the book. Yes it is.

I’m extremely grateful for my friend, Danielle, for giving me this amazing book. I learn a lot. Truly I do.

When Danielle first gave me this book, she told me that she still rereading the book and promised to hand it to me as soon as she finished the book. The reason she reread it was, she said, because she wanted to make sure she’d underlined all the interesting and important parts for me.

That’s so sweet.

And when I started to read the book, and as I read page per page, I kept chuckling whenever I saw a sentence or two that could be, indeed, a very useful input or even critics to me. And those sentences are the ones that she underlined. I would even reread it when I saw a smiley Danielle drew on a passage.

I really enjoy reading that, especially with her writing and notes on the book, I feel like I was reading the book with her. It made me feel like attending one of Lamott’s class with her.

So, before I move on with the last quotations from the book, I’d like to thank Danielle from the bottom of my heart. Terima kasih, temanku!

But now the class is about to over.

I was sad, yet at the same time excited for I now I’m gonna read another book. Very excited. Especially since I already decided what the next book would be (check the right side bar, if you wouldn’t mind).

So. This is gonna be my last journal on Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I hope you guys enjoy this journal as well as I enjoy reading the book.

The Last Class

“Write about that time in your life when you were so intensely interested in the world, when your powers of observation were at their most acute, when you felt things so deeply.” ~p. 225

Like I’ve written before, those times are usually the times whenever I felt depressed the most. Should I keep on being depressed, then?

I guess not. I don’t wanna end up like Nikolai Gogol, for sure, despite how brilliant he really was.

These ones are one of my favorite ones (sorry, I got so many favorite lines in this book):

“Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.” ~p. 226

Right. Even if it’s just a practice, it’d mean nothing if it’s left unfinished, right? Besides, a fiction will still stay a fiction.

“Risk being unliked.” ~p. 226

I can’t help but agree, although I must say I’m afraid of this the most.

Before Pramoedya Ananta Toer finally became known and highly respected in his home-country, Indonesia, he spent most of his time in either jail or home, being kept and guarded during Soeharto regime. Of course he was respected too, back then, but imagine his work is not known by his fellow Indonesian for his book was banned for years. It was being translated, of course, in English, and widely distributed to many countries abroad. It was why he became really famous, indeed. But it took me more than 20 years to finally recognize this amazing man. And even now there are still many others who don’t know him (I must exclude my friends, I’m afraid, for most of them have read even more Pramoedya’s book more than me).

“Tell the truth as you understand it.” ~p. 226

Then, after telling the truth, here comes the disguise.

“It is knowingly, maliciously saying things about people that cast them in a false or damaging light.” ~p. 227

The rest of the explanation that follows this quotation is really hilarious. Because we might never know whether any of our friends or families would sue us because they inspired us to create a character, what we should do is actually disguise these characters and make them unrecognizable. And give them teenie little penis (for guys, of course) so they wouldn’t come forth anyway.

The story and the truth will always be ours. But there’s no harm in disguising these characters so they wouldn’t thought that we’d just revealed their secrets. Give them teenie little penis.

I don’t know whether I would actually give them teenie little penis, but I would consider that option to secure myself. I don’t wanna get sued, you know.

“The best solution is not only to disguise and change as many characteristics as you can but also to make the fictional person a composite. Then throw in the teenie little penis and anti-Semitic learnings, and I think you’ll be Okay.” ~p. 230

I’m considering an old hag character now. Who would want to come forth and tell the whole world that the old hag is them anyway?

“This is what separate artists from ordinary people; the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.” ~p. 231

The truth is ours. So is the disguise. We writers tend to build our own world in our own castle. In a good way, though. I think this alone is a guilty pleasure for bloggers/writers. No one can ever take the pleasure away from us.

“Becoming a writer can also profoundly change your life as a reader.” ~p. 233

I couldn’t agree more. This is why I’m so in awe with Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. He got me at “Watch your step.” And that was the very first sentence of the very first chapter. The same reason why I love Jostein Gaarder’s works so much. And Stieg Larsson. If only I could take just a chunk of those brilliant brains so I could also put some brilliance into my writings…

No, of course I wouldn’t chop off their heads and took their brains just like what Zachary Quinto’s character did in the series Heroes. Creepy, you know.

But as Lamott puts it, as much as those writers inspired me, I gotta find my own voice. I have to speak up with my own voice, not Gaarder’s, or Faber’s, Pramoedya’s. My own voice.

“You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you.” ~p. 236

“Even if you never publish a word, you have something important to pour yourself into.” ~p. 236

For the sake of the spirit (to write). For the sake of the heart.

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.” ~p. 237

“We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.” ~p. 237

Lovely words. And very well put as well.

I’m dancing with the absurdity of life right now. And I’m not gonna rush it. Instead, I’m planning to enjoy my every second of it. Oh yes, I’m dancing right now.

Now this is where you ought to finally realize and conclude, that satisfaction, as well as the enriched soul alone, are the actual holy grail of writing. And hereby I end my Bird by Bird journal.

See you on another posts.

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