Tuesday, 22 February 2011

How to write like Anne Lamott

A few weeks ago I heard Anne Lamott speak at Seattle University. I'm a huge fan of hers, especially Bird by Bird: Thoughts on Writing and Life and Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.I could go further and say that I want to be her, sans the dreadlocks and history of addiction, but that wouldn't be completely accurate. Really, I just want to channel some of her writing prowess.

One of the main things I admire about Ms.Lamott, and attempt to emulate, is that she writes raw, gut-wrenching truths about deep things, but doesn't take herself too seriously. She's also hilarious, which I always admire in a "spiritual" writer.

Since I took furious notes during the talk I thought I'd share some of Anne Lamott's yummy nuggets (Sanvicens speak for digestible truths).  I hope you find them helpful!

Writing tips, straight from the horse's mouth: 
  • Write what you'd love to come upon reading.
  • Write from a place of truth so that anyone could read it and and say, "I know what you're talking about."
  • Life and writing are both about getting lost and then found. Your journey is what you have to offer. 
  • Most good stories are resurrection stories in some form. 
  • Good writing gives readers the gift of being seen, understood and no longer isolated.
  • No one wants you to be a writer and there is no good time to be a writer. If you're a writer, get over it, sit down and write. If you don't write now, you never will.
  • Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.

Are you a fan of Anne Lamott? What yummy nuggets on writing and life have been most helpful for you?

(In case you're wondering, yes, my handbag in the photo is naturally distressed. My parents bought it for me for Christmas five years ago and I've used it every day since then. I get the question a lot so just thought I'd put it out there since the bag's in the spotlight.)


Amanda Lee Smith said...

love love love Anne Lamott. One of the best things I have learned from her (other than the actual bird-by-bird principle) is this: "Write as if everyone you know is dead." To me it's the only way to really write honestly :)

Kristen said...

thank you for sharing these nuggets, alisha! i appreciated being able to read these thoughts on the writing life from your time spent with anne lamott. such good reminders, and i find them encouraging, too.

Laura said...

Great yummy nuggets :) And a pull on my heart strings to see your beloved handbag still on the go - you (and it) are the best!

Anonymous said...

I love Anne Lamott - Bird by Bird is one of my favorite writing books. I love her idea of a one-inch picture frame (short assignments), and crappy first drafts. And, well, she's just hilarious in her neurotic honesty - I love it.

These nuggets you scooped up are also wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

alisha said...

Crappy first drafts are so freeing! Thanks for reminding me about the one-inch frames as well - I'm needing that right now. :)

Nooks and Cranberries said...

Wow, great tips. Thanks for sharing Anne's insight for those of us who weren't here!

Anonymous said...

Her "Plan B: Further Thoughts On Faith" provoked and challenged my thoughts and views on quite a range of topics relating to faith and morality, which I've long thought settled. My kind of great writing: when you find yourself dwelling and reflecting on bits and pieces before sleeping, while on the bus, taking a walk, etc.. Thanks for sharing! p.s., That bag -- she has character! :)

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