Writing (and living) advice from Anne Lamott…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a TED talk delivered by Anne Lamott….

I’ve been a fan of Anne Lamott for more than 20 years — since I first read her life-changing book Bird By Bird, which — contrary to appearances — is not about ornithology. It’s about writing.

I find her funny and spritely and wise and I will happily read anything that she writes. Or, it turns out, anything that she says. Reader Roger Groce kindly emailed me a link to a TED talk she delivered not long ago. Even though she gave the speech in Vancouver, where I live, I didn’t know she’d entered the TED pantheon and I was thrilled to watch and read her very entertaining speech.

Addressing the rather daunting topic, “12 Truths I’ve Learned about Life and Writing,” Lamott managed to deliver her trademark wit and honesty laced with kindness. She had so many useful observations that I encourage you to read or watch the entire 15-minute speech. But with respect to authors, she had one ‘learning’ that might surprise many people.

Here is how she put it:

Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and evil people I’ve ever known are male writers who’ve had huge best-sellers. And yet, returning to [truth] number one, that all truth is paradox, it’s also a miracle to get your work published, to get your stories read and heard. Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, that it will fill the Swiss-cheesy holes inside of you. It can’t. It won’t. But writing can. So can singing in a choir or a bluegrass band. So can painting community murals or birding or fostering old dogs that no one else will.

Being published is not the ne plus ultra of writing. Writing itself is. Remember that the next time you’re sitting down in front of your keyboard.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on June 19/17.

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