Anne Lamott delivered the keynote address for the opening of the Frederick Buechner Writer’s Workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary. It’s my second year leading sessions at this powerful event and I was thrilled to learn Ms. Lamott would be here. I arrived at Miller Chapel extra early to grab a good seat.
During the Q&A I was able to ask the author of Bird by Bird how she decides what to write about in today’s tumultuous political climate—does she write what’s on her heart or does she feel impelled to address issues directly? I liked her answer, at least what she could share—she noted she could write for hours on this question. But the abridged version is simply this: you try to write what helps. People need to laugh, she said. What can she write to help people laugh?
She made us laugh during her talk. She was warm and funny and she spoke about writing in a calm, clear, smart way that I’m sure was comforting and helpful for just about every writer in the room. I especially liked hearing her talk about teaching Sunday school at her church.
Here are some of her words that I scribbled down while I listened. I hope you enjoy them. By the way, her latest book is Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. I now have an autographed copy and I’m looking forward to reading it.
From Anne Lamott:
I love the sound of paper, I love the smell of paper…paper was my salvation. When I have my nose in a book I can breathe again.
On writing and getting started: The first thing you do is you stop not doing it. The best thing on earth that can happen is to stop not doing it.
Writing is an act of faith. You just do it. Butt in chair. More will be revealed.
There’s no such thing as “as soon as…” You do it as a debt of honor. There’s never a good time to write.
Writing is painting with words.
In writing we’re trying to capture our deepest truths that might be meaningful for others to hear.
You’re never going to be in the mood and you’re not going to have self-esteem.
You should be writing that which you love to come upon, the thing that makes the inner you go “Ooh! Ooh!”
“I’m really good at 5 or 6 things. And I’m hilariously incompetent at everything else.”
“You don’t want to find yourself at 78 asking, ‘Why wasn’t I outside every day looking up?'”
From Sophfronia: Here’s to being outside as much as possible. Here’s to looking up at the sky.