This book is more than just wonderful advice on writing in any genre – at times, it reads as a poignant, hilarious and incredibly honest memoir of Ms. Lamott’s journey as well. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
Everyone I know flails around, kvetching and growing despondent, on the way to finding a plot and structure that work. You are welcome to join the club.
Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).
“The evidence is in, and you are the verdict.” This will be true for each of your characters.
“A life oriented to leisure is in the end a life oriented to death – the greatest leisure of all.” (Ms. Lamott’s father)
In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.
The whole thing would be so long and incoherent and hideous that for the rest of the day I’d obsess about getting creamed by a car before I could write a decent second draft.
A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way.
My friend went into an impassioned, disoriented riff about how there was too much happening in raspberry jam, too many seeds per spoonful. It felt like there were all these tiny little pod people in it. It was Body-Snatcher jam.
I tell you, the holder of the lantern doesn’t even know what the kid is digging for half the time – but she knows gold when she sees it.
Try to remember that to some extent, you’re just the typist. A good typist listens.
“You don’t love to garden?” they’d ask incredulously, and I’d shake my head and not mention that what I love are cut flowers, because this sounds so violent and decadent, like when Salvador Dalí said his favorite animal was fillet of sole.
Any plot you impose on your characters will be onomatopoetic: PLOT.
To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass – seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one.
Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly.
A layover at Dallas-Fort Worth is something for which, believe me, I am not remotely well enough.
I started telling myself that if you want to know how God feels about money, look at whom she gives it to.
Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic – jealousy especially so – but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.
They seemed to believe that between Jesus and a travel agent, things could probably be worked out.
I have gotten prepub reviews that said I was a treadmark on the underpants of life. Perhaps this is not exactly what they said, but by reading between the lines, I could see that this is what they were implying.
You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.