Monday, September 21, 2009

i'm not dead yet

But i also haven't been reading a lot of poetry, despite the abundance of books waiting to be read. Regular schedules just aren't something i'm good at, so although i say i want to read a book of poetry a week, it just hasn't been happening.

Lately i've been reading about writing. Bird by Bird, Ann Lamott's guide to writing, was an interesting enough read, although rather too prescriptivist for my taste (a holdover from my linguistics training, probably). She seems, often, to assume that people experience things in the exact same way she does -- she makes a point about everyone has the same school-lunch phenomenon of having foods placed into a hierarchy by schoolchildren. My school lunches weren't like that; half the class bought lunch, the other half brought it from home. i was the latter (when i was allowed to buy, it was such a treat!). My class had a habit of trading, and one of the most popular kids was a Portuguese boy with a mother who must have spent hours cooking every day. Actually, we were a fairly multicultural group, and the best lunches were usually "foreign". Sandwiches were pretty boring. Yet Lamott doesn't seem to conceptualize much outside her own experience -- i wonder if she's ever read the blog Stuff White People Like.

Some of her advice is very good though. She suggests setting small tasks (such as a page a day) to avoid getting overwhelmed by a large project. She advocates "shitty first drafts" followed by an editing process, rather than editing as you go. Now, personally, i find revision one of the most fruitful processes for pushing a text forward; i write a small section, and editing it sometimes gives me a better picture of where the text is going. But Lamott's book is interesting enough, even if it is occasionally dominated by personal anecdotes rather than writing advice. i was going to make some bitter comment about how i don't want to hear about her kid, but i'll blame the third glass of wine for that kind of snark. i do like the idea of writing books that you want to read, but can't find, as Lamott seems to do.

i intend to read Marlatt's Ana Historic soon. There may be a post. Or maybe i'll conduct a study on the ratio of wine consumed to comments in parentheses.

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