One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, as life as it lurches by and tromps around. (xii)
I started writing a sophomoric articles for the college paper. Luckily, I was a sophomore. (xxi)
It is this, Lamott’s self-deprecating humor, that amuses me throughout her essays. I could see myself writing something like this or hearing my mother saying something similar.
[P]ublication is not all that it’s cracked up to be. But writing is. (xxvi)
When a child comes out of your body, it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand. . . . (137)
I guffawed when I read this.
All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what’s keeping things running right. (180)
I automatically think that closing down is safe but . . . staying open and loving is safer, because then we’re connected to all that life and love. (190)
I think this quote is poorly phrased and, had Lamott asked me, I might have suggested she rephrase it. Perhaps something like this: staying open and loving is safer, because then we’re connected to all of life and love. But she didn’t ask me and I am not her editor.
The effect on language of the electronic age is obvious to all, even though the process has only just begun, and its ultimate impact is as yet unimaginable. (179)
A personal story interlude. When I was taking a course in the history of the English language we were required to do a presentation to the class. We were given a list of topics by the professor and one of the subjects was on the internet’s influence on the English language. Although I chose another topic, this was the subject upon which I would have chosen if someone else had already selected the other. The person who eventually discussed the way technology had influenced the English language was disappointing. It seemed to me that the person, after her presentation, had not addressed the implications of American predominance on the worldwide web even in the most superficial manner. I think I was especially disappointed because this was my “alternate” choice and to see it not handled to its fullest potential was an insult to the subject, from my perspective.
[I]t is a matter for despair to see punctuation chucked out as worthless by people who don’t know the difference between who’s and whose, and whose bloody automatic “grammar checker” can’t tell the difference either. (183)
Another personal story. I have an unpublished short story which I consider a litmus test of sorts. Whenever anyone offers to share their writing with me, to trade critiques and help one another, I use this short story to see what the response is I will receive. I am not suggesting that my story is already perfect However, there are minor issues in the narrative that I know are there (and have been corrected in a revision). One of the “mistakes” is something that a grammar check will highlight as a mistake but which is not actually an error; your typical “grammar check” will suggest that I revise one part from the plural (which is correct) to the possessive (which is incorrect). Anyone who bothers to read the sentence will see that the grammar check is mistaken (31 Helens would agree) but every now and again I will get some fool who relies upon the grammar check instead of common sense and tell me that I have this mistake. I immediately dismiss this person as unqualified to critique my writing and incapable of helping me revise it. As I result, I have saved myself, and these fools, from further frustration.
[T]oo many of us have blurry memories due to the fact that we did not slow down and really look at things. (36)
While reading this book, as inadequate as it was, I found myself remembering some of the ideas that Mason purports in her own writing. One of the exercises she describes includes teaching children how to “see” by having them describe a scene to you. She encourages the parent to have the child look at an image or at the horizon. The child is invited to describe, either in words or by drawing, the scene without looking. If the child struggles to do so, a second look is allowed, with no limitation on how long they choose to observe what is to be described. I confess I haven’t done this with my children and I certainly never did this with my children but I can appreciate the intention of this exercise. I would even argue that this might be something that writers should practice regularly to help facilitate the writing of scenes. If approached with an open mind, even a back yard can offer a treasure of things to be observed from one day to the next.
Now that the air we breathe is so heavily saturated with eros that a child can learn the facts of life from an afternoon of talk shows and soap operas, it seems unlikely that the diary could teach kids something new about sex, except in so far as any kind of nonhysterical honest about the topic is always new. (126)
Clearly, people, or some people, are good at heart, but the reality of Anne’s story, the reality of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, would suggest that some people are basically evil at heart. (168)
Given the choice, we would have been willing to live without the diary if it had meant that neither Anne Frank nor anyone like her, or anyone unlike her, had been driven into hiding and murdered. But none of us was given that choice, and the diary is what we have left. (175)
There are moments one revisits after something happens, especially after something bad happens. Moments in which one things, I shouldn’t have done that. (15)
Either a mother and daughter know each other very well, or they are strangers. (17)
He realizes that Mom has lived her entire life believing that she was the one who held him back from his dream. (112)
I often feel this way about my children, that I offered them all I could but it wasn’t enough, not as much as they deserved. When I consider their talents I am both in awe and ashamed because, with another parent they might have done so much more.
She says that all of the things that have happened are actually in the present, that old things are mixed in with current things, and current things mingle with future things, and future things are combined with old things; it’s just that we can’t feel it. (196)
All the relationships in the word are two-way, not determined by one side. (207)
Mom expressed gratitude for the small moments of happiness that everyone experienced. . . . Mom’s gratitude came from the heart, that she was thankful about everything, that someone who was so grateful couldn’t have led an unhappy life. (221)