Reading Response #2

Read Anne Lamott's  Bird by Bird,  pages xi - 109. Identify a chapter or section that resonated with  you, and post a 500-word response below on what you read. Lamott asserts that telling the truth is the primary component of good writing - do you agree? How does she see writing as a therapeutic process? What does she mean by the "moral point of view?" Be sure to also make a comment on a classmate's response for full credit.

26 thoughts on “Reading Response #2

  1. Andrew Lange

    For me, one chapter of Lamott’s book which very much resonated with me personally would be her ‘Shitty First Drafts’ chapter. In this relatively short chapter, she explains the relative difficulty which writer’s block can pose, and some strategies and personal anecdotes of hers for getting around this. She goes on to describe how sometimes it isn’t easy pulling words out of thin air, but how almost every good writer often has awful first drafts; it is just a part of the writing process. Poor first drafts lead to improved second drafts and even better third drafts. It may be difficult to start from a blank piece of paper, but it only gets better from there.

    I would agree with Lamott’s statement that telling the truth is a primary component to high-quality writing. When one is telling the truth, they have a much more solid basis to speak (or write!) from than when they are not; ever notice liars keep having to make up other lies to keep their original lie going? The same can apply to writing; when one is not writing from the bottom of their heart, how they really feel, their writing is not going to be as solid or meaningful as it would otherwise be.

    Lamott describes how writing can be thought of as a therapeutic process of sorts. On page 24-25, she relates a brief anecdote of her own concerning the time during which she was writing various food reviews for California magazine: “So I’d start writing without reining myself in. It was almost just typing, just making my fingers move.” Here, she describes how writing one’s first draft can be as simple as just ignoring one’s reservations or misgivings about the quality thereof, and simply getting ideas out of one’s head and onto paper (or, these days, at least into a WORD document; she describes how she would have twice as much material as she was actually allocated, and would later weed much of it out during her revision process.

    What Lamott refers to as “The Moral Point of View” is the idea that to truly write well, an author must be passionate about the material which they are writing. If it is a subject they are interested in and care about, they are bound to write much more enthusiastically, with a much higher-quality result, than if it is something they find uninteresting. Writing can be an excellent medium for conveying one’s thoughts, so in the same way as how telling the truth is easier than telling a lie, it is much easier to write about a subject you are passionate about and are knowledgeable in the field of rather than something you are unfamiliar with and, relatively speaking, couldn’t possibly care less about. Lamott goes on to describe how this idea can also assist with quality character development; if your writing is fueled by your own beliefs, your own moral compass, this will likely also show up in your story and characters; they will often have values that seem to mirror your own.

    1. Jessica Honebein

      I think that ‘Shitty First Drafts’ probably hits home for a lot of people, I totally agree with you that it can be a huge pain to get words on paper. I think that it’s a good point that “it only gets better from there.” I also think you make a very good point about liars keeping it all together, they definitely can get jumbled in their lies. When you write do you do the same as Lammot, just through your thoughts on paper and then come back and decide what to keep? I think this is one of her writing aspects that I am acting fairly good at, not that any of the content is worthy to keep though. I would have to agree with Lammot that it is much easier to write about something that I am passionate about.

    2. T Gordon

      As much as we sometimes hate to admit it, the solution to writer’s block is to just write! Lammott also points out in this chapter (and in other sections of the book) that those shitty first drafts might contain even one little piece that will allow the rest of your work to blossom. It was not until you wrote that other drivel that you came to the good writing.

      I like that you allude to the difficulty of starting a novel from lies. With an untruthful foundation, you have to do all that laborious work of lying and keeping up with lies. It will be harder to get in a state of flow.

  2. Aubri Stogsdill

    The section that resonated with me the most was ‘Polaroids’. In this chapter, Anne talked about how stories take time to develop, and it is naïve to think you will know the outcome when you’ve just begun, even if you’re the one writing the story. Just like with a Polaroid picture, it takes time for the full scene to develop, and it is highly probable that the thing you thought was the most important part is actually a side note. Truth be told, it isn’t possible to know the end from the beginning. The reason that I appreciated this section the most was because this is exactly what life is like. It’s easy to enter a new season of life expecting for this or that to happen, but in a reality, we have to be patient and let the whole scene develop before we can really understand the picture.

    I do agree that good writing tells the truth. This is because readers know when you’re lying. After all, though our experiences look different, all human beings understand what it feels like to be alone, loved, hurt, afraid, and excited, so when you paint a picture that doesn’t connect to our deeper understanding of what it means to feel, the reader will perceive themselves to be an outcast, rather than a valuable player. In every person is the desire to be understood and to be apart of something greater. Good writing is relatable on a deep level, and in order to be relatable, the words must ring true.

    For Anne, writing is a therapeutic process because it enables her to express all the things, conscious and unconscious, that she feels. Writing helps her to understand exactly what she thinks and allows her to feel all the insecurities and pain, but then work through them. Anne’s idea of the moral point of view is that we are all passionate about something and that something ought to be shared. It isn’t simply a code of moral laws or a list of rules that we adhere to, instead, it is a deep caring and concern about something. We each have a perspective within us and that perspective ought to be written out and fought for, as it is beneficial for those who may read it.

    I must say, reading this book has actually been rather interesting and enjoyable to me. I’m not much of a writer, but as I read all these interesting memories keep popping into my head; memories I feel may be worth sharing. Of course, that desire fades away before the book has even shut all the way. While I have enjoyed this reading, at the same time, I feel that Anne has somewhat of a dark uncomfortable tone in some sections of the book. The descriptions she uses to communicate the emotional turmoil and battle she faces when she tries to write are somewhat disturbing to me. Perhaps this is an isolated perspective. Has anyone else felt a bit ruffled by her descriptions in an unpleasant way?

    1. Andrew Lange

      Aubri, I like how you mention how Lamott herself must have something negative in her past; I often have had the same impression while reading. It’s interesting to see what goes on inside her head; often rather humorous I have found.

    2. Katherine Whelchel

      Hi Aubri, 🙂
      I liked the Polaroid section as well. Her imagery about painters and polaroid pictures accurately portrayed the meaning. I feel like a better writer already, because the pressure of having it all figured out right away is off. I like the way you write, by the way. You are able to communicate your thoughts in a very honest and real way. It is refreshing!

  3. Jessica Honebein

    Jessica Honebein- Reading Response #2
    The chapter that resonated with me the most was ‘Character.’ The reason why I think this chapter stuck with me the most is, Lammot uses a very strong metaphor. The metaphor is about every person having their own emotional acre and how they want to develop that acre is up to the person. She says that the emotional acre is shaped by the aspects the writer is trying to pinpoint. I like how Lammot says depending on the character one may love or hate them, and that will reflect directly from the life that someone has experienced themselves. I think she keys in very well on how the writer can form a character and the stages of that character’s development. Eventually the character that is being formed will have their own emotional acre and own verdict.

    One other aspect I like about this chapter is the advice she gives on forming a character or finding a character. Lammot says that first you should base that character on some aspects of your own personality. I think this is extremely good advice because then you will be able to form a better connection with the character and it may make it easier to form their story. The next piece of advice is to base the character on someone you know or a combination of people you know. This is also good advice because then you have a background to get you started but you can form the opinion you want the character to take on. Then she gives advice on how to figure out who these characters are. Lastly, she talks about what makes a likable narrator and how it is up to them to tell the story in an interesting matter. I think the biggest point Lammot makes in this chapter is about telling the truth about the characters you are writing about, and the easiest way to do that is getting to know them like you get to know your friends.

    On the note of telling the truth, this seems to be a big theme throughout her writing. Lammot believes that telling the truth is a primary component of good writing. I think that she is correct and that if one does not write the truth it can be hard to keep up with it all. I think that if the writing is truthful it then becomes more relatable to the reader, and like Lammot said in the chapter I analyzed the characters we write about have their truth. It is our responsibility as a writer to find that truth and write it. Lammot sees writing as a therapeutic process because it is one thing she can turn to and just write, rather it be her ‘Shitty First Drafts’ or the development of her characters. I think that she finds the peace in just being able to spill her words on paper with no judgement and eventually see the magic develop throughout her writing.

    Lammot brings up “the moral point of view” in her book, coming to the conclusion that writers need moral philosophy to make a great piece. She also says that we should take on the aspects of our life that we are most interested in and feel like there needs to be a story about them. She feels that the story we feel needs to be told should be told with confidence and truth, and that is what will make a good piece to read.

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      What a great response to the ‘Character’ section. Characters are vital for a writer, but I never realized how close a writer should get to their characters (like their smell). This deep connection makes sense though if one wants to come across as truthful in their work. I found it comforting when she reveals on page 50 that a person’s fault is what makes them likeable; therefore, they shouldn’t be too perfect. Later on, she hits home when she advises not to pretend you know more about your characters than they do. Stay open to them! You have an insightful view on Lammot’s therapeutic stance on writing. Do you feel your writing experience has been therapeutic? I need to practice reaching the this aspect of writing, how about you?


    2. Corbin Knapp

      Hi Jessica!
      I agree that the metaphor that each person has their own emotional acre to do with as they please is a resonating part of the chapter and the book. The way she describes characters makes it seem easy to make them. I think that the technique she describes of putting part of yourself into a character is a really useful tip. I agree that writing truthfully seems to be theme of her book, and that she views writing as therapeutic because she is just able to spill words onto paper and making something good out of it.

      1. Ben Knapp

        Hi Jessica!
        I also enjoyed this chapter. I think her advice on creating believable characters is very informative, and hopefully will help me with my own writing. Your essay sums up her work nicely, and was an enjoyable read.

  4. Michelle Cordova

    Part 1 of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott resonated with me because the whole “getting started” portion of writing is what I find most difficult throughout the writing process. Lamott makes getting started, and writing in general, feel effortless by how smoothly her words flow all while vividly expressing how easy it is to feel defeated when starting a literary piece. She covers the common issue of sitting down to write, only to find our minds wandering, worrying about what we will eat for dinner tomorrow or if this pesky cough is really just the tip of the ice burg, somehow related to a serious medical issue that we must get checked out right away. I feel as if she peeked into my life and every moment I’ve ever had in writing and turned my “getting started” journeys into a chapter of her book.

    Lamott also discusses the ways in which passion and personal experiences help to make our works powerful, not necessarily in a motivational or moral sense, but in a memorable and meaningful one. She explains that we own our past, not the ones played a part in it, and that it is solely our responsibility to let that show in our work by turning memories into a story, giving characters our qualities, as happy, sad, or frightened as you make them. Included in Part 1 is a poem by Phillip Lopate that closely relates to her ideas about writing as it addresses the ways in which some individuals attempt to dictate another’s feelings, such as critics in the world of writing; however, in both life and literary, we are the ones who get to choose how to feel and decide when and where to displace those feelings within our story.

    I feel that Lamott is correct in stating that telling the truth is the primary component of good writing for a number of reasons. First, as she says, we need and want to understand who we are. This is important in regards to writing because it allows us to dig deep into our past, uncovering the bits and pieces that created us, our personalities, and our passions. Second, truth is not simply about historical facts, but about honest, raw feelings that allow us to create, out of passion and desire, a piece that is meaningful. She sees writing, as complicated as we often times make it, as a therapeutic process because it is one of the few chances we may get in a day to sit down and, as she states, let our unconscious kick in. Whether we find our writing phenomenal or atrocious, or even have a difficult time getting started, putting pen to paper allows us to forget about the outside world for a bit and fall into self-hypnosis where we can make new, exciting things happen.

    When Anne Lamott discusses the “moral point of view,” she is talking about writing with passion, not necessarily about a story with a moral or definite message. I believe that she is trying to get us to understand that the importance of our job as a writer is to show who we are through personal morals and beliefs. Writing has the ability to show our uniqueness, but only if we peel back the layers and write confidently from within.

    1. Andrew Lange


      ” because it allows us to dig deep into our past, uncovering the bits and pieces that created us, our personalities, and our passions”. This is spot on! I would agree that reading others’ writing can tell you a lot about someone’s life: Their personality, their experiences, their environment at different times of their life.

  5. Aundrea Pierce

    Each chapter in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird has resonated with me on some level. I felt a secure connection with the plot section, almost like I found an inspirational gem. Many times while writing or brainstorming, I always forced a plot first then created characters. Lammot enlightens students that “Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen.”(Lammot, 1994) I realized I need to put more focus on the characters. She writes in great detail with her interesting metaphors and symbolism to reveal exactly how one can summon a plot by using the character’s relationship. One method to build a character is to find out what the characters value most. On page 59, she discusses the importance of having drama to help move the plot forward and hold the reader’s interest. Through this process, it’s vital to give the character effects to help them stay memorable for the reader.

    “But if you’re faking it, it will show.” (Lammot, 1994). After reading that, I thought to myself, “Yikes, how many times have I been guilty of this?”, “how many times have I read the material and got that phony sensation and just closed the book?” To help avoid losing a reader’s trust, It’s important to note the significance for the writer to feel the character’s feelings and get to know them. I do believe telling the truth is a primary component of good writing. When you’re truthful with your thoughts and feelings, it will come across as honest in your work. Readers want the truth not deceptions; after all, who enjoys being lied to?

    What Lamott means by “moral point of view” is the individual’s sense of what’s right and what’s wrong; uninfluenced by outside groups (business, peers, etc.). I find it kind of ironic she perceives writing as a therapeutic process because a lot of her descriptions have an exhausting and insane feel. For example, pages 24-27 she describes “quieting the voices in her head.” However, after meditating and using techniques to quiet the voices, I can imagine a therapeutic outcome. A writer just has to reach that state of mind to feel the therapeutic segment of it all.

    I’m excited to try out these new techniques! After reading all of the sections, I’m inspired and determined to become a better writer. Before enrolling in this course, I was having second thoughts because I’ve hardly shared my writings with anyone in fear of rejection and criticism. However, after the assigned reading I feel much more accepting and comfortable with the foreseeable!

    Lamott, A. (1995). Bird by Bird. New York: Anchor Books.

  6. Corbin Knapp

    Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is an engaging book that helped me view writing with a different perspective. Throughout the book, Lamott is showing us the ways that she finds helpful when she is writing. Her work is laced with humor and stories that people can relate with.

    A chapter that really resonated with me in Lamott’s Bird By Bird is the chapter ‘Dialogue.’ I agree with her that when you come across good dialogue in reading it makes a welcome break from all of the background that the reader has been perusing over so far. I found this an interesting chapter because I have a hard time putting dialogue in my stories. If I do include dialogue in my writing it doesn’t feel like a real person is speaking. In the chapter, she writes that when her students read their dialogue to the class it wasn’t as good as it seemed on paper. This is a problem I have in my writing, and the dilemma of her students is something I have experienced many times. I have learned that reading my writing out loud helps me with editing.

    I also agree that dialogue can be similar to how someone would talk in a movie, rather than how someone would talk in real life. I will definitely use her technique of saying the dialogue out loud before writing it down on paper. She also writes of how all your characters voices should be different from the other characters and match their personalities. This chapter has helped me understand how to write dialogue in a more realistic way, and in future stories I hope to make the dialogue flow more smoothly.

    Lamott’s statement that truth is an important element in good writing is an honorable idea, but truth is a slippery thing. What seems like the truth for one person might be lies to another. It is a good idea to make your writing as truthful as possible, but it might just reflect the truths you believe in. So yes, I think that a story should have some degree of truth, but not everybody will agree with it. Lamott sees writing as a therapeutic experience because you can put your frustrations into your writing and interactions between your characters. She writes several times throughout the book on how writing makes her feel better in some way. I agree that writing is therapeutic and I find that writing down some thoughts on the day helps me unwind. I can see why being able to put your frustrations into your story would relieve tension.

    I think that Lamott’s “Moral Point of View” is that the best writing comes when you write about something that you are deeply interested in. I agree with this sentiment and I know that it is considerably easier for me to write about something that I care about, instead of writing about something I would rather not write about. I think that many people can relate to the moral, and considering what I’ve seen so far of the flash essays prove that it is true. I enjoyed this book and it helped me get a further understanding of writing.

    1. Naimy Schommer

      Hey Corbin!
      I also struggle with writing believable dialogue for my characters. Reading it out loud will be an interesting exercise to help improve that. I think that a writer MUST write about their truth, but agree that truth is, as you say, slippery. An interesting question would be: “what does that say about the author?”.

  7. Ben Knapp

    In Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird, she uses her own experiences and opinions to help her teach about writing. Her feelings and views as well as her personality are evident in her writing. The book provides insights not only into her writing secrets and tricks, but also into her as a person.

    One chapter in her book that particularly resonated with me was the chapter on plot. I like the idea of creating your characters and then letting the plot create itself. She creates the characters with their own personalities, and bases the characters decisions on what she thinks they would do in any given situation. These decisions as well as the characters interacting with each other shape the story, rather than the characters being mindless slaves of the plot. The heroes and villains should have genuine reasons for what they do, rather than being cartoon characters trapped in an endless cycle of good versus evil. In some of my earlier writings, I would tell the story of my plot without thinking about why the characters do what they do, what motivates them to be who they are.

    Characters in a book should feel real and their decisions should feel realistic. Nobody should say something they normally wouldn’t, or act in a way not in their character just to further the plot. If your plot can’t happen because a character would be required to act in a way that doesn’t make sense, then your plot is unrealistic. The characters should shape the plot as mush as the plot shapes the characters.

    I think what Lamott means when she says that “telling the truth is the primary component in good writing”, is that writing should be believable, and I agree with this. As long as your characters act like you know they should, your writing will make sense. Writing will feel false if the writer doesn’t take into consideration what probably would really happen.

    Lamott seems to view writing as a chance to vent, to unload some of the troubles on her mind. It is evident from her writing that she leads a bit of a stressful life, as well as having a troubled childhood. If she has a bad day, or someone is rude to her, she probably goes home and writes about it.

    What I think Lamott means by “the moral point of view” is that you should write about things you care about. Writing will be much more interesting if you are talking about something you have strong opinions on. If you write a book or an essay on a subject that you have absolutely no interest in, then it will be boring and unconvincing. The same concept also applies to genres. A writer used to writing fiction might have trouble writing creative nonfiction, unless he finds some way to apply his interests to his work. I enjoy writing fiction, so writing this essay was difficult for me. If I found a way to apply my interests to this kind of writing, it might be easier for me.

    Overall, the book is enjoyable to read and informative. The writing advice is useful, and presented in a funny and clever way. I found reading the book to be engaging and instructive.

    Work Cited
    Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird. Anchor Books, 1995.

  8. Naimy Schommer

    Naimy Schommer : Reading Response 2

    The section that most resonated with me addressed the issues of the overwhelming assignments we typically give ourselves as writers. Lamott likens this struggle to scaling a glacier. “It’s hard to get your footing, and your fingertips get all red and frozen and torn up” (pg 16). I get that big time. I have a tendency to sit down and expect myself to produce literary gold right off the bat, but that is not the case.
    Lamott introduced the exercise of keeping a one-inch picture frame on your desk or nearby wherever you are writing. I think that’s an amazing restriction to utilize in order to set realistic goals for yourself. She illustrates writing as a physically exhausting exercise, which is a powerful way to say it takes a lot from you. Writing takes something from the writer, but also can be a welcome release.
    I like her categorization of drafts in the next chapter: the first draft as the “down draft”, where you just get down everything you want to say, the second draft as the “up draft”, where you “fix everything up”, and the third draft as the “dental draft”, where you “check every tooth” (pgs 25-26). Those categories are helpful in separating goals within your writing process.
    This can be a therapeutic process, examining something you’ve produced extremely closely and intimately. Its something to obsess over, like a project car: something you can pour your energy and brainpower into that allows you to escape from common issues you have to deal with. Of course, for true writers, this eventually will become a common issue itself.
    I think telling the truth is pivotal to good writing-I believe all good writing reflects truth. Whether that truth is widely accepted is another question entirely. The truth written in a piece could be a perspective of a character, the author, or a society and could be a very sheltered view or not a widely accepted position of a fact.
    Part of an author’s job is to push the truth. What to we actually believe? How do we explain things? What does it reflect about our culture? What human qualities does it highlight or question? How does it pertain to me and what I believe? I believe the main job of an artist is to question truth, to explain it, and to prompt others to do the same. If a piece of writing doesn’t do these things, I believe it serves no purpose.
    Virginia Woolf once said, “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.” A writer has to write truth, no matter what they believe that to be. Otherwise, their writing is not authentic, and doesn’t capture an audience’s heart. Falsity isn’t upheld with an educated audience, and doesn’t produce useful critique of society; it never has. A writer writes about themselves, directly or indirectly, and thus about what they perceive as truth. Art is a unique medium in this way.

  9. Sierra Russell-McCollum

    Sierra Russell-McCollum
    Reading Response #2

    Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird was an extremely helpful book. The way Lamott describe what works best for her when writing and the tips she gives the reader is extremely useful. While reading this book the chapter that stood out the most to me would have to be “Shitty First Drafts”. I found myself engulfed in this chapter when I was reading it. The way Lamott explains how terrible rough drafts are normal is comforting to me, considering that I myself am a professional when it comes to writing terrible rough drafts, so it was very reassuring. From my own experience, it can be difficult seeing other writers create perfect rough drafts without trying while I struggle, but this chapter made me think differently about the creation of terrible rough drafts. When Lamott was explaining how eventually when you are writing a terrible rough draft you can find something amazing within the rough draft. This has happened to me a few times before, but I continued to get down on myself because I did not come up with it sooner. But, this chapter stresses that it’s okay to not be perfect the first time. Sometimes it takes longer to find that perfect piece, and it’s okay. And when you start getting down on yourself about your writing you must block those thoughts out and believe you can get through it and come up with something amazing. When Lamott compared writing drafts and Groundhog Day I thought she was spot on. They are both extremely unpredictable and you never know what you are going to get, but in the end everything will turn out just fine.
    When Lamott entwined her own personal experience into the chapter, I found that very comforting. She showed her own struggles with writing her reviews for the California Magazine and how people were very tough on her writing. But soon she found her rhythm and all was good.
    This chapter helped me realize how every person is completely different when it comes to writing, especially when it comes to rough drafts. Rough drafts are just the beginning of your work and there is so much improvement to happen with it. It doesn’t have to be good right away. Yes some authors are geniuses and have perfected their rough drafts, but many famous authors do struggle with their own rough drafts. When writing my own pieces I need to not get frustrated with myself for not getting it right the first time. Great things come with time.
    Throughout this book I picked up so many incredible and helpful writing techniques. I have always been open to new ideas when it came to writing. I have always had to work a little extra harder when it came to writing because sometimes it does not come easy to me. Lamott explained her writing tips in a way that made it easy to understand, so the reader could use these tips themselves if they wanted to. I have always loved reading books like this one because they are short and simple but the information they provide is very useful to anyone who needs it.

  10. Katherine Whelchel

    I have never really thought about writing in the way that Anne Lamott describes. I guess in my mind you were either a writer, or you were not. Just like you either liked tomatoes or you did not. It was a gifting you were either born with, or you weren’t. My sister and I were always “pretty good” at writing. We had this way of making things sound deep, philosophical, and important. This wasn’t necessarily because we were born to be writers though. I thought it did until I realized one day that when I sat down to write, I just wrote what the teacher wanted. I looked at the couple of paragraphs I had written and thought “I don’t really think any of this, its complete rubbish” (I never actually say rubbish). It was then that I realized my sister and I weren’t incredible writers who would join the greats. We were just good at figuring people out. We could examine and understand people to know what they desired to hear/what would impress them. That’s probably why all our teachers said we were great writers; we were basically suck ups.
    When signing up for this class, I made a vow to only write what I actually think, not flouncy shmush that just sounds nice. Even right now I’m struggling to keep this promise. The section that resonated with me the most was “Perfectionism”. Anne really hit it on the head and surprised me with the idea that writing is kind of like breathing. Everyone can and should do it. I’m not saying that we will die if we don’t write because that’s dramatic. Just that it isn’t something you have to be gifted with. Everyone can do it and do it well.
    “Well” being defined in my book as “honestly”. Every person has a different outlook and way of seeing the world. If they shared it through writing I believe it would be something great, interesting and beautiful. It’s when we get all caught up in being a “good writer” that we lose that uniqueness and rich quality that comes from our own lives. Like Anne points out, the people who are writing to get published have missed the point. This, I feel is what she means by “moral point of view”. Write what you desire and are passionate about. Everyone has something to share; the definition of “great” is really flimsy.
    I could try and write well, or I could write truthfully. When I read some of those books or poetry that talk about sun rays like they’re liquid gold, I can get really discouraged. Who actually thinks that when they look at the light? I then can just say to myself, well maybe you’re not meant to be a writer.
    It is really cool that we all see the world differently, and that we have the ability to share it (in more ways than just writing). “Good” is flimsy and can be defined many different ways depending on the person. “Truth” is solid. There is only one truth, and no matter what you think, it isn’t self-definable. My goal is to only write honestly and to only write what is true. So basically, I do agree with Lamott’s statement about truthful writing.

    1. Monica Gallagher

      Katherine, I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on writing earlier and can relate about some of the boxes of academic writing. This class is going to be a breath of fresh air in that respect and am getting more excited about it as the assignments go on. I feel very similar about the descriptiveness of some poets, the limelight and exaggeration of some of it is way to far fetched for me to relate to and so I don’t. This is why I love Lamott. I was chuckling through most of the reading and could completely see her as one of my crazy friends.
      The one disagreement that I have with you is the last statement about truth. I am a big believer that truth is not solid. I mean, if we’re talking about a math problem you could get me to say that a certain thing is correct or true. But, basically with everything else I feel that truth is dependent on the person, situation, context, time, etc. What is true for someone can be completely and offensively false for someone else. This is why in my writing I talked about how writing and books can bring people together in that way. It gives us a glimpse into how others are, what they believe in and why, what their experiences are. It gives us the chance to see other people’s truth.

    2. Cassidy Kramer

      Hello Katherine,
      I like how you brought up the fact that everyone has their own perspective on the world and writing helps us share it. If someone who believes that hunting is animal cruelty read a piece from a Native hunter talking about how hunting has kept their culture and family alive, maybe they would catch a glimpse into a hunter’s life and realize that most are not doing it to be “cruel” (Unless they are extremely stubborn). I think this could help resolve overly biased opinions in the world.

  11. Monica Gallagher

    I do agree with Lamott that telling the truth is one of the primary components of good writing. I think being truthful and speaking from experience to mold your fiction writing is huge in being relatable to other people. When others can relate to your story it automatically pulls up a memory from their past that they can draw upon. It works as a tool to bring validity and a basic genuine nature to the work. There’s a component of trust and respect as well that organically happens between the reader and the writer when the author is speaking from the heart in truth. On a practical note, writing with truth as a primary gives you so much material! We are who we are by our truths and the experiences that have occurred throughout our lives, why waste that?

    Lamott speaks a lot about writing as being a therapeutic process, it sounds like it has helped her a lot. She is crazy neurotic and I love it! A lot of times when you write, you don’t always know what is going to come out. Free writing and those horrid first drafts can do wonders for realizing all the wild that you have stored inside. She talks about using that wild for your writing, those mental quirks that we all hate, and think are so unique to us. She shows us that we can use that in our writing. To outlet it in developing characters and freely allowing stories to develop. She mentions the different parts of ourselves that make up the whole and using those to build characters. In doing all of this, looking inside yourself and listening to those multiple voices, it can seriously bring some meat to the table. It can be a release of sorts, in turn becoming a therapeutic process that you maybe didn’t even know that you needed. This is another one of the things that I love about writing and reading. In writing you yourself can experience that. In reading, if it is a solid piece of literature, you can feel that from the writer. It is really, truly great. Gives me the warm fuzzies.

    The moral point of view is meant to describe writing with passion about something that matters to you. Using a topic of interest that you already have energy on can take you further than something that you feel like you’re pulling your teeth to work on. It gives the reader meaning and sometimes a message. The best ones that do this are usually not on purpose either. It is supposed to naturally come upon the reader as an overflow of the passion that the writer already carries. It seeps in, sometimes slowly, sometimes immediately. That is one of the most globally important parts of reading in my opinion, the act of causing permeability between people. Books are bridge builders that cause meetings of minds and interactions that would hardly hold the ability of replication in a normal environment. Especially in the hustle bustle of today. Let alone the ability to learn the deepest, darkest, grittiest feelings and thoughts of others. Even the fictional characters are people we all know in real life. It allows gently the opportunity to gain understanding and hopefully compassion for others. Yes, even the psychopaths.

  12. Caitlyn Williams

    Caitlyn Williams
    Reading Response #2
    27, Jan. 2018

    The chapter that resonated with me the most has to be ‘Character’. I agree that the first draft of writing takes time to develop, along with the character. I think that developing character is an important part of writing because they’re a part of you, and because most readers like to read about the characters and how they develop. I liked the way the author talked about making characters true to yourself. If one changes their characters to fit the plot, the characters might become flat because they don’t resonate with them. It puts a strain on the writer, and it feels untruthful.
    I also really liked the way she gave out ‘pointers’ for how to describe your characters. What would they say, how would they say it? What would they wear? How would they smell? I’ve never thought this deeply while describing my characters. Lamott puts life in her descriptions, and that’s hard to find sometimes. She writes about how dialog also gives more to the story than pages of descriptions. This is also very important because what a person says speaks volumes on what they like, or what kind of person they are.
    I also really liked the way she wrote about how “a person’s faults are largely what make him or her likable”(p 50). This is relatable, and I agree with her on that. If someone comes off too ‘perfect’ they’re not going to be as interesting as the person with flaws and quirks. Life is interesting when it’s messy. People don’t like to feel like they have to be perfect around someone. “Perfect means shallow and unreal and fatally uninteresting”(p50). She supports this by comparing a fun friend asking to go to the dump, and a boring person taking you out to fancy dinner. I would rather be with a person thats carefree and funny, not one that’s shallow and uninteresting.
    Lamott then goes on to say that the narrator is the character that hold the story together. The narrator in a story should connect with their readers, and make them enjoy the pleasure of reading fiction. I liked the way Lamott addressed that people don’t like to be manipulated, but when it comes to fiction, they are being manipulated in a way. The way they should be ‘manipulated’ is pleasurably. They should enjoy the story written, and connect with the characters and the narrator. She also says that hope is an important aspect of pleasurable reading, and the way the narrator narrates should be truthful to the best of their ability. It’s important for the person telling the story to sound reliable because we as humans, like to believe that what we’re reading is the truth. If it isn’t the truth, we feel deceived. This makes us less interested in reading, and that’s bad for the story trying to be told.
    Overall, I love the way Anne integrates different little stories that support what she’s writing about. I love that this book is about ‘Some Instructions on Writing and Life’. Anne Lamott is like the teacher that goes deeper than the curriculum, and I love that. She integrates parts of her life into the instructions of writing. Her instructions help writers with the challenging parts of writing. (wandering minds, character development, plot, and dialog). This book is really interesting, and I look forward to reading further into Lamott’s life instructions and guide to writing.

  13. Leah Rego

    The chapter of this weeks reading that most resonated with me was ‘Perfectionism’, this is my Achille’s heel, my greatest weakness is my desire not to do anything poorly. I was raised with the motto to always do your best, not a bad motto really, unless you twist it and make it into always do what you think your best should be, which leads to trying to reach those unfathomable heights of perfection. Lamott says “Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up.” (pg 28) Yep, that’s me, at least when I’m writing, I’ve never really been a first draft person. Lamott states on page 30 that perfectionism “…keep[s] us standing back or backing away from life, keep[s] us from experiencing life in a naked and immediate way.” I think this is a very keen observation for those of us who suffer from a perfectionist’s anxiety induced writer’s block.
    Lamott’s assertion that telling the truth is a primary component of good writing is something I can agree with to a certain point. There is a line at which telling the truth changes to a heedless consideration for others and I think that, at least when writing non-fiction that is a line that a writer must keep in mind and cross only with purpose in mind.

  14. T Gordon

    I agree with Lammott’s idea that truth is a primary component of good writing. If we do not examine in full whatever facet of life we want to write about, we could miss out on an opportunity to reveal something important to our readers. I find that this is especially true when one is writing pieces that more character-drive than plot-driven. If I am reading a novel to explore human drama, you will bet that I want to see these characters in their raw form–I want to hear their fears, their deep and dark desires. Lammott touches on this idea as well when she states that even though we make up everything about our characters, we have to be committed to telling the truth about them.
    I believe that most good stories ultimately reveal the truth of their contents. However, this does not mean that the author has to come right out with the truth. The truth behind characters, twists of fate, names, or events can be revealed subtly as long as the author leaves enough clues.
    Indeed, writing the truth can be therapeutic–even if we are not writing about ourselves! Our worst fears and insecurities can be revealed in our characters, or the state of the world in which a plot is set. Once the writer plays out these scenarios in their writing, perhaps they realize that life indeed does go on after our foibles, follies, and just plain bad habits. Lammott seems to touch on writing as therapy in her ‘Getting Started’ chapter. She talks about writing despite the butting in from our personal committees of internal editors. When these ‘editors’ really kick up their game, the emotions that we experience can be akin to a panic attack. However, you can fight these feelings by just keeping with the motions of writing, until something great comes out of the pile of garbage you wrote the day before.
    Speaking of therapy…I have a propensity to see bad events in my mind’s eye before they even happen–I suppose it is a powerful defense mechanism meant to remind me to live in a safe way, and to predict potentially deadly or scarring events before they even have a chance to occur. However, these visions sometimes prevent me from fully living my life and challenging myself. In writing and researching for those stories, I have the chance to work these events out in my head, but with someone else as the protagonist to take the heat– all the embarrassment, shame, and vitriol that I can dream up!
    When Lammott discusses the idea of a “moral point of view” she takes the idea of writing truthfully a step further: if you are not writing from the heart, and there is no bigger meaning at stake, you might not even finish the piece! This resonated with me as I think about some writing projects I had in mind in middle and high school. I knew of certain plots that I wanted to pursue, and characters that I wanted to bring to life, but there was very little substance behind these ideas. I wanted to write what I thought people would like; therefore I found myself very uninterested in continuing.

  15. Cassidy Kramer

    A chapter that resonated with me the most would be ‘Short Assignments’. I really liked this chapter, and specifically the part where she brings up the story of her brother stressing about his report on birds. Her father calmed him down by telling him “bird by bird”. These three words that Lamott uses made me think about my day to day life. For example, it will be the beginning of the week, all I see are the tasks ahead of me, assignments due, people to see, work to be done, and I get overwhelmed. When I read what Lamott said, I noticed that if I just take on one thing at a time, or bird by bird, then everything will be okay. In volleyball, our coach would tell us to focus on point by point. Don’t think about the last point, or the next point, think about this one point, and then you can focus on the next, and that is how you will pull ahead. I have only thought about this in the sport context, and never applied it to my life until now.

    I do believe that telling the truth is the primary component of good writing. If you don’t believe it is the truth, then why are you writing it? Like Orwell wrote in his paper “Why I Write”, the reason why he writes is to bring justice. If he didn’t feel that something didn’t need attention to it, he wouldn’t write about it. People notice good writing. Good writing can influence and help readers to see the truth about someone, something, or themselves.

    Lamott sees writing as a therapeutic process in a way that you are emptying your mind. “I just needed to get that off my chest” is a phrase that you often hear. There are many burdens in life, and people don’t always have others that they can talk to about their own personal burdens. Lamott refers to the unpopular boy as either a writer or a serial killer. With different burdens on him, he’ll either keep them festering up inside him, which can possibly turn him into a serial killer, or he will use writing as an outlet to express his feelings, his truths, and his morals, in which he would turn out to be a writer.

    Lamott also talks about the “The Moral Point of View”. This kind of ties along with writing about the truth. If you write about something you feel strongly about, then you will have much more to say about it. Your writing will be much better because you have a drive to say things that you believe need to be read. She is saying that you need to see literally the moral point of view of your story. Why you are writing it? What are the morals that you are portraying? What are you wanting people to get out of this story? Every writer needs to ask themselves these questions because otherwise, why are they doing it.

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