On Writing – Catherine’s Observations
by Catherine Conroy
It began with preparing for my Book Club meeting. This month each member is discussing their favorite book on writing. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott had been considered for all to read until the consensus became, each person bring the book they’d recommend.
In my writing studio, I scanned the bookshelves closest to me. The Elements of Style 4th ed by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White; The Scene Book, A Primer of the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield; and Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Fiction by Janet Burroway; I often refer to these.
Because it had been discussed, I pulled out Bird by Bird, read it and held it in my lap. Two things struck me, a one inch view, and the view within a headlight beam; the field of focus for writing – go close in, the rest of the world isn’t the experience. These two reminders were worth the reread of Anne’s book.
Anne’s irreverence, her young child being heard saying “shit” and Anne’s intended admonishment met with, “…the f***ing keys” – he’s holding a set of plastic keys he’d planned to use after purposely locking himself outside. There’s “The Shitty First Draft,” and “Broccoli” meaning listen to your intuition, your child sense of what a character might do and say, and radio station KFKD – or K-F***ed, the station that can play in your head twenty-four-seven if you allow it to foster your defeat.
I wasn’t satisfied I’d honed in on my most valued book about writing. I searched further and pulled out, The Situation and the Story; the Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick, The Right to Write, and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (these started my journey as a writer), The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, and Women and Writing by Virginia Woolf. Gornick’s book sucked me in and reminded me of connecting into the story through personal experience.
What do these books have in common? Why are they valuable to me? They prompt me to write and to stay with writing. In a pile, they are daunting and they taunt me with all that I have not accomplished. Why this now? What should I do? Find what keeps me writing forward. It was in Anne’s book when she wrote about having a writing partner or writing group; small, trusted. Do whatever it takes to keep you on task.
The most valuable books are the ones that keep you writing.