Monday, June 28, 2010

What do you put in your jars?

In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott shares many brilliant pieces of advice for writers. But one of my favorites is when she talks about putting mice in mason jars.

She describes a coping mechanism she's developed to silence the voices that hinder her writing--the things that fill her with doubt and insecurity and guilt and keep her from getting any words on paper. She imagines them as a tiny, squeaking mouse, and pretends that she's locked them away in mason jars, so they can't hassle her anymore. By picturing it as something silly and harmless, she's able to ignore it and move past it. And I've decided that I'm going to give it a try.

Self doubt.

You are nothing more than a silly little mouse, and I'm going to lock you away in a jar and ignore you. I have much more important things to do with my time than let you control me. I'm shoving you aside so I can do what I really need: write. 

No fear. No doubt. No drama. I'm putting everything else away and leaving just the the reason I do this: my love of telling stories. The rest is just a trapped, squeaking mouse. And you know what? I actually feel a little better, and I feel like doing something I haven't done in way too long: 

Writing for FUN! 

What about you guys--anything you want to lock away in a mason jar? 

*holds out empty jar in the comments section*


  1. Dude! That book saved my life.

    I lock my inner-editor in my jar. If I don't, she makes me worry about the messy state of my WiP, but I can't edit while I write. The words go down and I don't give them another thought.

    I let her out and feed her chocolate when it's time to edit though!

  2. I also lock away the inner editor. Picked that trick up from nanowrimo. Would never have finished a novel without it.

  3. I have so got to read that book. I don't have jars, per se, but all my 'junk' I shove under the bed. I figure the dust bunnies are big enough to swallow anything.

  4. How about all the distractions in my life right now?

  5. That is one of the best books on writing ever! Right up there with The Forest for the Trees.

    I need to lock away my laziness when it comes to revision, and my wordiness when it comes to first drafts.

    Thanks Shannon.

  6. Steady that jar, Shannon. Lack of confidence...a boatload.

  7. I loved that book, but forgot the jar idea. I think you hit all the ones I need to cram in my jars.

  8. I'd lock up all those you listed and then some:)

  9. It's funny I have no recollection of this part of the book but have lived by two other things:

    The one-inch frame has taken me through many a manuscript, little step by little step.

    The image of driving from point A to point B in the dark with the headlights on(which I don't think originated with Lamott, but which nonetheless I will forever associate with her). I have been able to move forward with stories trusting that what I can "see" in the headlights will eventually get me to the end.

  10. I own that book but haven't made time to read it yet. It sounds like I need to give it a higher priority number. I think we all have more than enough mice to lock away - time to stock up on mason jars!

    FANTASTIC post, #1!!! I love it! :-)

  11. I have got to read that book! Thanks for the reminder. :)

    Locking away my fears and insecurities sounds perfect!

  12. * adds envy and apathy to jars* *screws jar lid shut tight*

    I love the analogy more now that I see a picture of an adorable little mouse. It makes insecurity seem kind of cute instead of awful.


  13. Awww not a mouse or any living creature imaginary or not! Maybe tinkerbell though! LOL!

    Take care

  14. Hmmm, strawberry preserves, maybe some beets?

    Kidding. It's self doubt that needs to be sealed away and hidden on a dark, dank basement shelf. Except I live in New Orleans and I have no basement.

    Great post.

  15. Are we sure this is humane???

    I like to imagine doubt as a cold, creeping mist that tries to surround me...but if I get up and dance around for a minute, I throw it off. That's not crazy is it?lol

  16. I just finished reading Bird by Bird last week! I loved her idea of using the 1-inch picture frame to narrow down your goals into manageable chunks.

    I need to throw my self-doubt in that Mason jar right now!

  17. Sometimes I feel like my mice are safetly contained in jars all over the house but agents keep sending savage rabies infested ones through my inbox and I have to catch and cap em up again...

  18. HA HA Creepy Query Girl!

    I just want to lock my dog up in a jar. While he is the lovable sort, he needs to stop pawing through the garbage!

  19. I'm envisioning my self-doubt as a mouse ... wait, it's pretty big, so several mice. I'm tossing them in jars! I'm locking them up!

    Um, do I have to feed them - they're kind of cute! :)

  20. oh, I loved that book!!! Great post.

  21. I have always been enamored with Anne and relate to her in many ways.
    Bird by Bird is one of my favorite books on writing and the process. I constantly recommend it to other writers.

    This particular piece of advice could be good for all people, no matter their occupation.

    Have a wonderful week, Shannon.

  22. Plink plink! I put spare change in my Mason jars! hahaha.

  23. 1. Must read Bird by Bird.
    2. Need MANY jars.

    Love this post -- thank you for sharing it!

  24. *crumbles up query letter and places it in the jar* Whew. That was scary, but I feel much better now.

    I will have a look at that book and hope it helps Thanks for the great post.

  25. Ugh... no, I can't think of all my problems as mice in a mason jar. Because mice are cute and adorable and innocent. My stresses aren't. Plus I don't want to think of shutting the lid and suffocating the thing to death.

    I'll picture my problems as flies in Mason jars instead. :)


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