Designated typist

Anne Lamott on letting your subject talk

I imagine my characters, and let myself daydream about them. A movie begins to play in my head, with emotion pulsing underneath it, and I stare at it in a trancelike state, until words bounce around together and form a sentence. Then I do the menial work of getting it down on paper, because I’m the designated typist, and I’m also the person whose job it is to hold the lantern while the kid does the digging. What is the kid digging for? The stuff. Details and clues and images, invention, fresh ideas, an intuitive understanding of people. I tell you, the holder of the lantern doesn’t even know what the kid is digging for half the time—but she knows gold when she sees it.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, pg. 56

To write, understand your subject. Dig into it deeply, consider its nuances, then sit back and let it do the talking. Putting words on paper is less terrifying if you think of yourself as the designated typist for a subject that’s going to figure out what you need to say.