Tuesday, February 14, 2023

F is for Fragments


I've been listening to Word by Word, which is a recording from a writer's workshop given by writer Anne Lamott, author of the writing book Bird by Bird. I've also been reading Austin Kleon's Show Your Work, a fun little mix of quotes, advice and Kleon's word paintings and collages. 

I'm consuming the two very differently, partly because of the packaging, so to speak. I'm listening to Lamott on Audible, playing the lecture often when I'm in the car, with the goal of adding it to my "books completed in February" list. Kleon's book, on the other hand, is one I picked up in a bookstore the last time I visited my daughter in Pittsburgh. It was a fun store -- less a library of titles and more a collection of books and fun stuff (or "blissful chaos," as the store's website describes it) -- and Share Your Work is a book well-suited to the same sort of savoring as the store.

But despite my choices in consumption, there is overlap. Lamott, like so many other authors, talks about writing ideas down when they come to her. Uniquely, she clips them to a clothesline that runs across her office so she can find them when she needs them. Kleon talks about sharing the process, curating our snippets and putting them out into the world as a means of giving our audience a peek into what we're doing between books and other larger works. 

I do both of these things, minus the clothesline. In fact, most writers, especially those who have a blog or social media presence, do them. Sometimes, I jot them down. Other times, I click on "add post" and drop fragments like this one (from December) into the empty box, hoping they'll lead to a longer post:

Lying in bed, swaddled in my jersey sheets, listening to the rain that was supposed to be snow and planning my day. Some would say delaying my day, but I know I’m savoring the quiet, the peace, and the thoughts drifting through my mind, enjoying the fact that I can merge into the rat race instead of flooring it and racing in at top speed.

Today, before class, I jotted down two more on a notepad I carry with me.

It's nearly 50 degrees, but there's a sharp breeze that reminds me it's not yet March.

I still remember what I wore, or part of it, anyway. After much deliberation, I settled on a too-small skirt because the clothes I'd become accustomed to wearing to work seemed too casual for an interview. 

The first one (on the notepad) popped into my head as I was walking across campus this morning, but its origin was my chilly walk back to my car yesterday. When I settled into the driver's seat, I grumbled to myself that I had dressed for 50 degrees, and it didn't feel like 50 degrees. 

The second was part of a potential blog post that ran through my head yesterday as I was getting ready for work. Unlike the scene-setting function performed by the others, it has enough story connection to possibly appear in a future post -- if the idea has enough staying power to develop into something larger.

I would venture to say that every writer's life is full of fragments. Pretty pieces of prose that don't quite fit anywhere. Bits of story that were cut during the process of editing a blog post, story, or novel. Ideas scribbled on scraps of paper, littering desks or hanging from clotheslines.

Some make the cut, some don't. Some inspire better words or clearer phrasing while others languish for a long time before they're allowed to take center stage. 

And some show up in blog posts as illustrations of the process. If and when you see any of them again, remember, you read it here first. 

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