On the recommendation of what seems like every blogger/writer/author I know, I recently finished reading Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Fabulously insightful book for beginning authors, and although I am hesitant to recommend this book for the “and life” bit the title promotes, I’ll gladly throw my name in along with the rest who say that if you want to write, you should probably read this first.
For me, the most compelling point of the book came out of her chapter on “the moral point of view.” There are story concepts, themes, and particular moral perspectives that we strongly identify with, conjuring up a passionate reaction inside of us. They are different for everyone, but those are the tools that provide inspiration for good writing. If something doesn’t really and truly move us, we shouldn’t waste our time trying to convince someone else it does.
Maybe you’re not a writer. You don’t craft stories, but I’m fairly positive you enjoy them. We are surrounded by stories in everyday life, on television, in movies and books – and we all identify with certain characters and themes for different reasons. It’s not an accident that you read a particular author or watch a specific show on TV, and I would go so far as to wonder if you might learn something about that passionate reaction inside of you by asking one simple question . . . why?
Why do I identify with that character?
Why am I so intrigued with that relationship?
Why do I always seem to watch [fill-in-the-blank] type movies?
Why can I absolutely NOT miss that one show?
I took a few minutes to reflect on my current TV obsession Rookie Blue. At the beginning, I convinced myself I was watching the show because of Andy, the young fresh-faced heroine making her way in an overwhelmingly masculine profession. Upon further consideration, I realized what draws me into the show is Sam and his growing love for Andy. Sam’s a tough-guy training officer who appears hardened and a little cynical. But Sam is also a softie, a romantic, a one woman man. It seems almost impossible for Sam to love another woman, despite the fact that for most of the first two seasons viewers are left to wonder if Andy will ever choose to love him back.
I like that kind of loyalty in a man. It reminds me of my husband. I admire the guts it takes to wait for something or someone even when you’re unsure of the outcome. I’m the kind of hopeless romantic that believes in a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love and that settling for anything less is nothing short of selling out.
Good things to know as I start writing my own stories. Understanding what moves me will help me write something that’s authentic and compelling . . . something I hope might move someone else as well.
What can you learn about yourself by the stories (books, movies, TV) you love?
If you are a writer, how will that understanding motivate your writing projects?