Story has been trying to find me all day, but I’m too tired to draw together myself together and let narrative arrange my scattered pieces. And so, I flip through the books that crowd my office couch hoping someone else’s words can conjure the magic that eludes me.
Just don’t pretend to know more about your characters than they do, because you don’t. Stay open to them. It’s teatime and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It’s that simple.
My copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird was a used one, apparently. It’s so easy to lose track of how books find us these days. Generally, it’s enough that they find us at all. The harder thing is finding time for them, of course.
The pen that underlined that passage was black and inky, just like mine. I assumed the marks were my own until I noticed how straight the lines were. When juggling a nursing child or reading in bed by flashlight, all a mother can hope for are bold zigzags that don’t obscure the text too much.
And as exhaustion-warped as my memory is, I know I’ve never read that paragraph. A stranger had absorbed this book and let it go long before it made its way to me.
These days, I have little time for characters. My writing is focused on the “you” of the reader and the “I” that strives to tell good stories.
I do, however, try to make as many tea parties as I can. And I am as kind as I can be to the dolls at the table, and under the table, and even those who gouge the small of my back when I roll on them in the night.
Tonight, when I’m too weary to be the writer, I can be grateful for Lamott’s story and the book’s mysterious first owner for teaching me to be a better mama.