I'm working on a talk I have to deliver next week. Until that is behind me, I'm not ready to get back into the novel-in-progress. I need to keep writing, though, and so I'm taking Anne Lamott's advice.
In her book, Bird by Bird, Lamott says that you should write short assignments. It's important to get something down, she says, and to finish it. Write about your childhood; write about birthdays, school, family members, (even) school lunches. There may be only one usable sentence in the piece, she says, or there may be nothing. But it could reveal something interesting about you, your family and the times in which you live.
This is what I wrote yesterday:
My mother didn't like to make school lunches. She never said as much, but all these years later, I know it to be true. I cannot remember her ever suggesting we make our own.
Mom refused to buy sliced bread but preferred hearty loaves which she sliced herself, calling anything like "Wonder Bread" soggy and devoid of any nutrition. "You might as well eat the wrapper it comes in."
No crust was ever removed from Mom's sandwiches, and the margarine would be applied so sparingly that the sandwiches were often dry. How I envied my friend Marja's pretty lunches: sandwiches made of thin slices of roasted chicken breast on crustless, soft white bread. No great leaves of lettuce hanging out anywhere. And real butter!
I especially hated to open my waxed paper wrapped sandwich to discover today's surprise was egg salad. Mom never let the eggs boil long enough to become hard, and there was always some runny yolk inside.
Anne Lamott was right. That piece did reveal something about myself: I too hate making lunches. While I sit scribbling at the kitchen table, the pages of my novel stacked in front of me, my husband quietly makes his own sandwich.
Pity the writer's family!