Friday, April 9, 2010

Anne Lamott: Sit Down and Write

I would like to start out by thanking my friend Eileen for recommending that I read Anne Lamott.  I had never heard of her, but Eileen gave her such a rousing endorsement that I took notice.  I got Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life, read some (or all?) of it, laughed a lot, and forgot about Anne Lamott for a season.  That was many years ago.

More recently, while searching The Readers' Choice: 200 Book Club Favorites by Victoria McMains for titles to recommend to my book group, I noticed Operating Instructions: A Journal of my Son's First Year by Anne Lamott.  It looked good, and I remembered having heard of her before...(see how keen my memory is?)

I read the book.  I almost wet my pants I was laughing so hard in places.  I also found great comfort in it, and hope.  You will not want to read the book if you try to avoid profanity as a rule.  But you will be missing out on one of the truest accounts of first-time motherhood I've ever read.

Now I'm in the middle of reading Bird by Bird again.  This time I have not forgotten who Anne Lamott is.  When I read something that I want to remember, I try to write it down.  But I'm not sure where to start writing or where to stop with this book.  I think I just need to memorize most of it.  On the second page of the introduction, Lamott writes of her father, who was also a writer:

"He could go anyplace he wanted with a sense of purpose.  One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.  Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.  Writing taught my father to pay attention..."

Have you felt this as a blogger, an historian, as a diarist or journal-keeper?  When you are in the habit of writing things down, do you find that you notice more of what is happening around you?  How frequently do you say to yourself, "this will make a great post" and pay special attention, or get out your camera, just to better capture the moment?  If I write something down, I remember it.  The rest is lost.

Lamott's father got out of bed every morning at 5:30 so that he could spend a few hours writing before the rest of the family woke up.  She tells her writing students that in order to write, they need to sit down.  "You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day.  This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively" (6).

I was reading something recently about making sure that we are not so caught up in the busyness of life that we neglect the most important things.  I asked myself, what important thing am I neglecting?  The answer came in a flash, and it was unexpected: Writing.  The answer surprised me because writing is something that brings me a great deal of pleasure, so I don't usually think of it as important.   I like thinking of it as something that I am supposed to do, something that God has given me to bring me happiness, something that he wants me to spend time on.  I like the idea that by doing something I love to do, I could also be doing something good for others.

So I am going to try to sit down a little more frequently to write, instead of waiting until I think something "blog-worthy" has happened.  And if you enjoy what I write, please let me know.  And keep reading!


Seth and Sharon said...

I love your blog posts because you're a great writer (and funny), please make it more frequent..

Suzanne said...

Here, here! You are a wonderful writer and I miss your blogs. Please exercise the talent and we'll be waiting.

Melinda said...

FYI: I always enjoy what you write and am excited when I open your blog and see a new post.

LL said...

I love you, I love everything you write, and I hope you post something every day for the rest of my life (once I'm gone, you're free to retire...)

Naomi said...

I think you have an extraordinary talent for it, actually. Education and life experience are so helpful, but I really think you have a special gift for engaging people with what you write!