Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Published Writers Say it So Much Better

One of my favourite authors is a woman named Anne Lamott, The first book of hers that I read -- and am currently re-reading -- is a non-fiction book on writing called Bird By Bird. I picked it up from Greenwood's just after finishing college, when my creativity had dwindled to a trickle and there were no more school assignments to rekindle it. Yes, Bird By Bird helped me look at the process of writing with a lighter heart and a sense of humour, but more than that, it introduced me to an incredible writer whose books I enjoy devouring time and time again. It's hard for me to talk about her writing as much as I'd like, though. She is a Christian writer, and her work is infused with her own particular form of faith, and as none of my friends are religious, I feel a bit awkward gushing about her in their company. But, this woman is incredible... she makes me want to believe in something!

Not that I don't, already. I'll keep my spiritual musings to a minimum, but I do want to say that I believe that there is a higher power that exists. I believe that there is a force that is present in all living things. But, I don't have a name for it. I don't know if it has one face, or a hundred; if it is male or female; if it answers prayers or leaves us to our own devices.

I just know that the things I see around me are too beautiful to be the result of a cosmic accident.

Anyways, I was trying to clumsily explain something to a friend of mine in a message yesterday, and this morning found a passage in Bird By Bird that I think does a bit of a better job of it. Lamott wrote it in reference to creating characters, but I think it kind of works for what I was trying to say. So, here it is:

"Having a likable narrator is like having a great friend whose company you love, whose mind you love to pick, whose running commentary holds your attention, who makes you laugh out loud, whose lines you always want to steal. When you have a friend like this, she can say "Hey, I've got to drive up to the dump in Petaluma -- wanna come along?" and you honestly can't think of anything in the world you'd rather do. By the same token, a boring or annoying person can offer to buy you an expensive dinner, followed by tickets to a great show, and in all honestly you'd rather stay home and watch the aspic set.

Now, a person's faults are largely what make him or her likable. I like for narrators to be like the people I choose for friends, which is to say that they have a lot of the same flaws as I. Preoccupation with self is good, as is a tendency toward procrastination, self-delusion, darkness, jealousy, groveling, greediness, addictiveness. They shouldn't be too perfect; perfect means shallow and unreal and fatally uninteresting. I like for them to have a nice sick sense of humour and to be concerned with important things, by which I mean that they are interested in political and psychological and spiritual matters. I want them to want to know who we are and what life is all about. I like them to be mentally ill in the same sorts of ways that I am; for instance, I have a friend who said one day, "I could resent the ocean if I tried," and I realized that I love that in a guy. I like for them to have hope -- if a friend or a narrator reveals himself or herself to be hopeless too early on, I lose interest. It depresses me. It makes me overeat. I don't mind if a person has no hope if he or she is sufficiently funny about the whole thing, but then, this being able to be funny definitely speaks of a kind of hope, of buoyancy."
Now, my own list of flaws is slightly different, but you get the idea. So, ~L~, that is what I was trying to say, but in a more coherent and well-worded way than I seemed to be able to manage. :c)


  1. instead of the ocean i'm going to resent... the sky in all of its vast blueness