April 9, 2008

Dear Miss Lamott


Dear Anne Lamott,

For ninety minutes last Sunday I listened to you speak about life, faith, writing, and inspiration. I hate to gush, but your speech was as wonderful and witty as your essays. I think I want to be you when I grow up.

Sincerely,
Margaret

Seriously, I might have to join the Anne Lamott Fan Club. I've just written and subsequently edited to the point of deletion several effusive paragraphs about her writing. It occurred to me that writing inadequately about someone else's fabulous writing is wasted effort. Don't know how those critics do it. Obviously, the best way to discover if you like an author is simply to read their work. I've read some of Lamott's fiction, but I really enjoy reading her collections of essays. Just finished her newest book, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, and have started to reread Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

I seem to be in a nonfiction phase these days. Reading an essay or two before I turn out the light has become my new nighttime routine. Maybe it has something to do with my decreasing ability to recall details. I'm enjoying not having to reread passages to jar my memory about the plot or the names of secondary characters in a lengthy novel. Reading twenty or so well-written pages with a distinct beginning and end isn't an overwhelming bedtime challenge--more like a delicious nightly reward.

Another benefit of reading essays is that I'm able to read several different books simultaneously. Besides Anne Lamott, I've been dipping into Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers and Maxine Hong Kingston's Hawai'i One Summer. Notice a theme? Gifted authors writing about life and writing. Initially, I started reading their books because I was hoping to find inspiration for my own writing. I got that, but I am continuing to read their work because they're all terrific writers. They are each well-known for their fiction as well their nonfiction. In either genre, these women are powerful and engaging storytellers.

Just remembered one more thing I particularly like about Anne Lamott. She doesn't glamorize the act of writing. She openly admits that writing is a struggle, but still she writes almost every day. She says she writes "shitty first drafts," but she keeps on writing and revising. Toward the end of the lecture Lamott spoke about regrets and taking risks. She doesn't want to turn 75 and feel like she missed out on life. I don't want that either. If I work hard, by the time I'm 75, I''ll have had several more decades of writing
"shitty first drafts." Even if I never publish anything other than posts on Oh, Margaret!, my internet version of a vanity press, I will have been a writer.

1 comment:

Patty P said...

Oh, Margaret,
You are one of those fabulous writers. Now we just need a few more pages (like about 200) and the rest of the world will know it too.
I'm glad you went. USCB really does a great job of attracting high quality speakers.