Thursday, June 4, 2009
Bird by Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
“Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.” Mel Brooks
I love Mel Brooks. What a great line. Anne Lamott must like him too, because she brings up this interesting point in her book on writing and life, Bird by Bird, an ode to anyone who struggles with one or the other, or both, period. It’s easy to lose our inner broccoli. As children we have it in spades. We’re born with no inhibitions, no preconceived notions as to what’s good and what’s not good. Like with broccoli for instance, we automatically assume it tastes great, after all it’s such a pretty bright green even if it does look like the bush next to the front porch.
The loud voice in our little head is open to new ideas like a sponge, something we adults sometimes call truth. For children, truth is like water vapor in a room on a humid day, it spreads to every corner of the empty space. As adults we gather that water like a fierce unforgiving rain cloud. Then we stomp it into the corner with our boot, and turn up our nose and say, “I wouldn’t eat that, it tastes like a tree,” or “You don’t need to know that,” or “Because I said so, that’s why,” until the loud voice becomes softer, a sound wave headed away from us, until eventually we hear nothing at all.
Welcome to adulthood.
“So,” she says, “try to calm down, get quiet, breathe, and listen.”
What good advice. This whole book is full of it. I laughed and cried at the same time. A child of hippy parents, Lamott is very philosophical and wise. She’s experienced a lot of sadness in her life. What she says rings true, sometimes in a painful, even funny way, if that’s possible. Doesn’t everyone know someone like that? Someone who has had deeply moving and sad experiences in their life, usually revolving around death, and who somehow come out shiny on the other side of the abyss? These are the people who hold the magnifying glass a little closer to our eyes and say again, “You’re missing it. Look and see.”
If you’re looking for writing advice, you should read this book. If you’re the kind of person who never dots their i’s or crosses their t’s because you’re in such a hurry, you should read this book. If sometimes you feel like a “treadmark on the underpants of life,” you should read this book. Because according to Lamont, “You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on the ship.”
I liked having her for a shipmate for 236 pages. It made my daily walk to the plank that much easier. 4 stars