Bird by Bird: Truth and Childhood

I am reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I have never read anything else by her, but I have heard this is a good book on writing. In chapter one, she says good writing is about telling the truth. What truth? I have to wonder what truths my short sea story has. I am not sure it has any. But maybe it has truths I am not aware, some deeper meaning I did not intend to put in, but is there anyway. I suppose that will be for readers to decide. Possibly, by the end, I might see some truths in the story myself.

The other thing that she says is write down your childhood. I am stunned by this advice. I have never written about my life. Even the requisite What did you do this Summer? essays in school weren’t easy for me. I suppose teachers assign that because they think it will be easy to write, but for me, nothing could be more difficult. The truth is, I don’t want to write about me, in anyway, shape or form.

I suppose a certain amount of myself must go into my stories. There is probably no way to avoid it – writing can be a very intimate thing –  but I am never inspired to use events from my real life. Not like Anne Lamott did; she states in the introduction that her first book was about her father’s illness.  It is not that I purposely try to avoid that, it is just that I never think of it. My stories are outlandish after all. They involve murders and magic and kingdoms and creatures that don’t exist. None of that exists in my life.

But the unrealistic nature of my stories is just one reason. Even if my stories took place in this world, in the here and now, I still can’t state with any certainty that my real life would end up somehow in my stories. It would be more likely to happen, of course, because they would intersect with my life in a way my fantasy stories never will. But I can’t be sure if my life would show up in a concrete fashion. News stories, popular culture, books and movies, all those would be far more likely to show up one way or another.


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