Listen to your Broccoli

Titles are important. I probably wouldn’t have read a book entitled Some Instructions on Writing and Life, but I was captivated by one titled Bird by Bird. What could such a book tell me about life and writing? Whatever it was, the title itself held the promise of something fun, a little offbeat, and yes, instructive too. I wasn’t wrong. This, to me, is one of the best books I’ve ever read about writing. Although I’m not a fiction writer, Lamott’s wit and wisdom applies to me and to anyone else who’s ever felt the desire to put pen to paper…or fingers to keyboard.Everyone who reads Bird by Bird will find something to appreciate. I like the way Lamott shares such wonderful advice while sharing experiences from her life. Her love for her father, Sam, and Pammy are there; so are her impressions from the nursing home, the Special Olympics, school lunches, and the death of a five-month-old child. Sad but funny is the experience with her agent who said, “I’m sorry.” Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

Are there secrets to writing? Yes and no. Lamott credits the “secret” to Natalie Goldberg who, when someone asked her for the best possible writing advice she had to offer, held up a yellow legal pad, pretended her fingers held a pen, and scribbled away. When Lamott’s students ask her that question, she picks up a piece of paper and pantomimes scribbling. In other words, just do it. Oh, and when you’re scribbling away, remember that “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.”

To give you an idea of Lamott’s sense of humor, she quotes a friend who says that the first draft is the down draft because you focus on getting it down. The second is the up draft, the one that you fix it up. “And the third draft is dental draft, where you check very tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.” Gotta love that!

For anyone tired of reading about dangling modifiers and pronoun agreement, read something refreshing like Bird by Bird. You’ll be glad you did. And if you’re curious about the title of this post, then you’ll have to read the chapter called “Broccoli.”




Author: jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer

10 thoughts on “Listen to your Broccoli”

  1. the book sounds really impressive!!!

    It is. I plan to go back and read sections of it again.

  2. I admit, I probably should make more than a passing acquaintance with the English language. For some reason I stopped with vocabulary, took a look at grammar and went “eh, not so much”.

    Why? Because it’s stuff like putting the punctuation INSIDE the quotes ‘just to make it prettier’ that drives me nuts! (In the U.S. it would be “eh, not so much.”)

    I object. It makes no sense! Um. I guess I’ll stop ranting on your beautiful post now.

  3. My broccoli ain’t talkin. 🙂 Actually, it is saying Jayne, finish your project LOL. As to grammar, punctuation and so on…I use my creative license…b/c I love these dots and exclamation points! I have read several books by Anne Lamott, I enjoy her style.

  4. To all of you who responded to this post, thanks for your comments.

    Barlow, Double thanks.

    You’d love the book. It’s hilarious in and yet manages to get information across…very useful information, I might add. One of her suggestions is to place very close attention to events and people and conversation. I already do that, but now I’m trying to be especially attentive because you just never know where you might pick up some terrific information.

    I just finished the article project, thanks to your prodding.

    Connie & Hayden,
    The picture is one of Paul and Amanda’s honeymoon pictures from Cozumel (sp.?)

  5. Hayden, They loved it too. My son spent two years there (in the Torreon area) and developed a love and respect for the Mexican people…and lots of Mexican artifacts too. In fact, I found a mirror in a thrift store Friday with “Hecho en Mexico” on the back and I bought it for him/them, and I know they’ll find a spot for it.

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