Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of the Bird by Bird book discussion. Last week we discussed “Shitty First Drafts” and “Perfectionism” two subjects close to my heart and often close to each other - as strange as that may seem by the title.
This week we get into “School Lunches” and “Polaroids” (despite my chapter mistake yesterday).
I’m honestly not surprised Lamott chose to talk about school lunches. Was there ever a time in life when life was more dramatic every day? And school lunches. As Lamott says: “The contents of you lunch said whether or not your family were Okay. Some bag lunches, like people, were Okay, and some weren’t.” Not only were lunches secret codes for your family, but where you sat, who you talked with, and where you ate were all pieces determining your status on the social ladder.
Talk about a complex society to write about - and I didn’t even have Body-Snatcher Jam.
What I like the best out of this chapter is the school lunch talk is a lot of fun because most of us can remember high school like we remember our favorite show is on every Tuesday night at exactly 8 p.m. But beyond that, Lamott found something - a character - even more valuable than remembering exactly what carrots said about your status. In all that, she found what I, and likely you, dismissed as you were reading along - the boy on the fence.
That is what shitty first drafts and free writes are all about. I’ve heard it said time and time again that writing prompts and journaling things are pointless. Yet, they’re only pointless if you leave the half-hidden diamonds unpolished.
Next is “Polaroids” which I enjoyed very much. I’m very much for not knowing where your story is going to end. I like letting my characters and settings take me to new places I would have never thought of had I planned it all out beforehand.
You couldn’t have had any way of knowing what this piece of work would look like when you first started. You just knew that there was something about these people that compelled you, and you stayed with that something long enough for it to show you what it was about.”
That pretty much sums up my writing experiences.
This chapter explains why inspiration can come to you in the strangest places. You have to let it build up, clear, and reveal all it has to offer. You may go to the beach, let the waves wash up and hit your ankles, chase seagulls, and watch the man at the end of the dock fishing, and all that can add up to an old man on a dock with a bucket of squirming bait.
Using the development of a Polaroid is perfect in many ways but very much in it teaches us to be patient with ourselves and our writing.
How did you like these two sections? Is there anything I didn’t mention that stood out to you? Is there anything else you’d like to add on?
Don’t forget to come back next week to discuss “Character” and “Plot”.