"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke (©julenisse/Fotolia)

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Count on Anne Lamott for wisdom and wit on writing and life

Photo by Sam Lamott
Tonight, I got to bask in the glow of Anne Lamott’s wise, self-deprecating humor and the humility of one who always seems slightly flabbergasted that so many of us have come to worship at her feet. She’s stumping (somewhat reluctantly because she doesn’t like flying and gets lonely away from home) for her new book Stitches, which she began writing last December in a search for meaning and forgiveness after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. 

I have no idea how many of the hordes of people—mostly women—who came to see Annie tonight at All Saints Church in Pasadena are writers, but I have a feeling there were plenty of us. We hung on her every word, leaning in a tad more closely for the nuggets that relate to our craft. Here are a few…

Write what you would like to come upon. In other words tell a story that you’d like to read.

Most miracles involve writing. It seems she, like me, doesn’t always know what she’s thinking or feeling until she gets it down on paper.

Waiting for inspiration to write is another way to guarantee you won’t get any writing done.  You can make all the excuses you want and “the thing is, no one cares, so you’d better... because the regrets will be heartbreaking."

Writing a novel is three years of commitment to having terrible self-esteem. Isn’t writing creative none-fiction torture enough?!

Do it for yourself because New York publishing isn’t going to save you. In fact, “you’ll be more mentally ill after publication…”

And she left us with this beautiful piece of advice from the great E.L. Doctorow:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” 

In other words—in Annie’s words—it’s still Bird by Bird…. 

Author's note: Click here to read about the first time I saw Annie. 


  1. I was there and haven't yet thought it all through let alone articulate it so masterfully. How you got this down already? Wizard you are, Mary. Brava!!!!!!

    1. Thank you, my dear. So happy you got to experience her. Such a presence! XO

  2. WOW! I'm copying this to read again and again. Wonderful, Mary!

    1. Thank you so very much, Lori! I am so happy it spoke to you. XO

  3. Oh, I wish I'd been there... what wonderful wisdom and inspiration! I've been increasingly nervous about finishing my memoir... coming up on the two year mark now... and thinking I was way behind. Looks like I may just be right on track. :)

    1. It takes as long as it takes, I guess. I sure understand the pressure of time... Write on, Veronica! XO


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