Study Guide

Bird by Bird Part 1, Chapter 5

By Anne Lamott

Part 1, Chapter 5

School Lunches

  • Even though she planned to tell us every single thing she knows about writing, Lamott decides in this chapter to tell us every single thing she knows about school lunches. Same thing, right?
  • Actually, Lamott says the longings and dynamics and anxieties of writing and school lunches are similar—and besides, talking about them will show how short assignments and s***ty first drafts can produce some amazing details and characters.
  • When panicked students call Lamott and say they can't write, she asks about school lunches. This gives the students some material and makes them feel better. Lamott says that writing about school lunches for even half an hour can generate a vast amount of material. So, she sometimes asks students to focus on sandwiches.
  • Lamott gives an extended example of writing about sandwiches. She says no one knows if the material will be usable, but you've got to get it all down on paper first. She tells a story to reinforce this point.
  • Sometimes the students are a bit stuck here, and they ask what they should write about.
  • Lamott says to write about carrot sticks. Bugs Bunny would be happy.
  • Lamott gives an example of her own writing about carrot sticks. She points out how the writer who has just jotted down a bunch of stuff about school lunches now has a ton of material. The next day, that writer can pick out the best stuff and get working on it.
  • When she sits down the next day, Lamott is most likely to choose something she jotted down about a boy leaning against the fence during school lunch, someone a little different from the others who almost certainly became a writer. Already, it's bigger than carrot sticks.

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