@amit's notes

Bird by Bird




Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on. (Location 340)

- Note: Write about your childhood memories
  - journeys to villgages
  - friends and summer vacations
  - regrets on call not made. Ambar

“writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” (Location 489)

- Note: When stuck, It’s important to write small paragraph about anything. Setting, character, mood.

Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. (Location 578)

Just don’t pretend you know more about your characters than they do, because you don’t. Stay open to them. (Location 861)

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. (Location 866)

The climax is that major event, usually toward the end, that brings all the tunes you have been playing so far into one major chord, after which at least one of your people is profoundly changed. If someone isn’t changed, then what is the point of your story? (Location 939)

She said that sometimes she uses a formula when writing a short story, which goes ABDCE, for Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending. (Location 952)

First of all, sound your words—read them out loud. (Location 980)

Second, remember that you should be able to identify each character by what he or she says. (Location 986)

Third, you might want to try putting together two people who more than anything else in the world wish to avoid each other, people who would avoid whole cities just to make sure they won’t bump into each other. (Location 991)

Metaphors are a great language tool, because they explain the unknown in terms of the known. (Location 1104)

You can see the underlying essence only when you strip away the busyness, and then some surprising connections appear. (Location 1176)

I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here? (Location 1309)

The core, ethical concepts in which you most passionately believe are the language in which you are writing. (Location 1348)

If you have a message, as Samuel Goldwyn said, send a telegram. (Location 1355)

It means, of course, that when you don’t know what to do, when you don’t know whether your character would do this or that, you get quiet and try to hear that still small voice inside. (Location 1416)

So try to calm down, get quiet, breathe, and listen. Squint at the screen in your head, and if you look, you will see what you are searching for, the details of the story, its direction—maybe not right this minute, but eventually. If you stop trying to control your mind so much, you’ll have intuitive hunches about what this or that character is all about. (Location 1443)

Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly. (Location 1460)

So now I always tell my students about the Gulf Stream: that what it means for us, for writers, is that we need to align ourselves with the river of the story, the river of the unconscious, of memory and sensibility, of our characters’ lives, which can then pour through us, the straw. (Location 1529)

Jealousy is one of the occupational hazards of being a writer, and the most degrading. (Location 1559)

you don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it, too. (Location 1871)

One way is to join a creative-writing class and to ask the people whose work you most love and with whom you may have some rapport if they want to begin meeting once a month, to hear and support each other’s work, gossip a little, and talk about writing in general. (Location 1891)

Or you can keep trying until you find two or three people who do want to see what a group would be like. (Location 1893)

And writing is about filling up, filling up when you are empty, letting images and ideas and smells run down like water—just as writing is also about dealing with the emptiness. The emptiness destroys enough writers without the help of some friend or spouse. (Location 2026)

Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck. (Location 2136)

We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in. Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer’s job is to see what’s behind it, to see the bleak unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words—not just into any words but if we can, into rhythm and blues. (Location 2285)

Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to. (Location 2318)

Annie Dillard has said that day by day you have to give the work before you all the best stuff you have, not saving up for later projects. If you give freely, there will always be more. (Location 2321)

Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it’s right. To be great, art has to point somewhere. (Location 2359)

whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware. The cosmic banana peel is suddenly going to appear underfoot to make sure you don’t take it all too seriously, that you don’t fill up on junk food. (Location 2499)

Write about your childhoods, I tell them for the umpteenth time. Write about that time in your life when you were so intensely interested in the world, when your powers of observation were at their most acute, when you felt things so deeply. Exploring and understanding your childhood will give you the ability to empathize, and that understanding and empathy will teach you to write with intelligence and insight and compassion. (Location 2538)

Links to this note

If this scribble resonated with you in any way, I would love to hear from you. You can email me or browse through my bio to find other ways to connect with me.

Bird by Bird