#40 I Am Always Amazed Words Can Fill Up a Page
First grade. This will be explained below. Sort of.
I made a promise to myself that I’d write every day in August and that I’d post what I write on the blog. It’s 10:17 pm and I’m just sitting down to write… about what? Surely I’m not OUT OF IDEAS. It’s only day nine. I’ve got plenty of ideas. Right?
I almost took the day off. Missing one day isn’t a big deal, right? I’ll do it tomorrow and won’t miss another day.
But then I started negotiating with myself. What if there’s ANOTHER day this month that you really really can’t write? Then you’ve blown this totally made-up idea of a free pass on today. Like, what’s so special about today? What if another day is more special? Better? Worse? What if you get WRITER’S BLOCK AND NEVER WRITE AGAIN? Then what?
Jesus, brain. Chill out, man.
Does everyone do this? (Peeks hopefully around).
Every few years I re-read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I think I may have lost my copy, or I gave it to someone in a fit of benevolence that I now regret. I could use her advice right about now.
I remember 2 things from the book: short assignments and one-inch picture frames.
Short assignments is pretty much what it sounds like. Give yourself short assignments that you can realistically complete in a single writing session. These daily blog posts are my attempt at this. 500 words is my goal - although, in classic overachiever and chatterbox style, my posts are usually way longer than that. The 500 word goal was meant to give my brain that minimum threshold for success so that I wouldn’t say “I can’t possibly write 750 words today. Not TODAY.”
The one-inch picture frames technique asks us to think about a one small aspect of a subject, just what you might see through a one-inch picture frame. For example, instead of trying to write about your entire educational experience — or even “what happened in third grade” — you might focus on the school bus rides or what lunch was like.
Coincidentally, the subject of school lunches came up on my weekly sibling Zoom call the other night. My sister said we always knew which brown paper bag was ours because mom would noisily scrunch and roll the bag down instead of neatly creasing and folding the top down. She’d forget to write our names on the bags before putting the food in, so she’d have to scrawl it on with a pencil or a crayon making it look as though maybe we’d written our own names using our non-dominant hand.
I remembered that she’d put the sandwich in first, then a napkin, and lastly 35 cents scrunched up in a piece of tin foil. Milk was a quarter and we could get a soft pretzel at morning recess for a dime. More often than not, she’d remember just in time that she should put a snack in. My older siblings got TastyKakes*. I got huge oranges that crushed my PB&J. I don’t remember ever getting TastyKakes, maybe because by the time I was in school, Mom was already on the diet that would last 40 years. In kindergarten or first grade, I had a Welcome Back, Kotter lunch box. This was when the lunch boxes were entirely made of metal, even the clasps. My little fingers would get caught in the clasp, scraping, sometimes drawing a tiny, some might say invisible, line of blood. Panicked and assuming that I’d be dead within the hour, I’d ask the teacher for Mercurochrome. Is that a thing? I don’t even know what that is**, but the word just popped into my head. I'll have to google it.
I just checked the “note details” for this post and I”m at 648 words! YIPPPEEEE.
Ok. Good night!
*The TastyKakes brand includes a range snack cakes, pies, and cookies. The peanut butter KandyKakes and butterscotch krimpets are a Philadelphia delicacy. (I’m expecting debate on this - everyone has their favorite TastyKake snack).
**Mercurochrome was a thing! And is sort of banned now in the US and other countries over potential mercury poisoning.