Embracing Your Shitty First Draft

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it." — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and ... [Continue Reading]

People Who Work With Their Hands

“Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten – every piece of fruit – had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before?   --Alison Luterman, “What They Came For”

Tell me the story of someone who worked with his or her hands.

  ... [Continue Reading]

I Remember

“There is nothing stiff about memoir. It’s not a chronological pronouncement of the facts of your life: born in Hoboken, New Jersey; schooled at Elm Creek Elementary; moved to Big Flat, New York, where you attended Holy Mother High School. Memoir doesn’t cling to an orderly procession of time and dates, marching down the narrow aisle of your years on this earth. Rather it encompasses the moment you stopped, turned your car around, and went swimming in a deep pool by the side of the road. You threw off your gray suit, a swimming trunk in the backseat, a bridge you dived off. You knew you had an appointment in the next town, but the water was so clear. When would you passing by this river again?” --Natalie Goldberg, from the introduction of [Continue Reading]

Memory is Full of Holes

“I must say a few words about memory. It is full of holes. If you were to lay it out upon a table, it would resemble a scrap of lace. I am a lover of history…[but] history has one flaw. It is a subjective art, no less so than poetry or music…The historian writes a truth. The memoirist writes a truth. The novelist writes a truth. And so on. My mother, we both know, wrote a truth in The 19th Wife—a truth that corresponded to her memory and desires. It is not the truth, certainly not. But a truth, yes…Her book is a fact. It remains so, even if it is snowflaked with holes.” -- David Ebershoff, The 19th Wife

Natalie Goldberg always talks about the importance of exploring the underbelly of a prompt, it’s opposite. I completely agree. Alternate these two prompts each ... [Continue Reading]