12 Truths Anne Lamott Has Learned From Life And Writing

Anne Lamott On Life And Writing


Anne Lamott is an American novelist, non-fiction writer, political activist, public speaker, and writing teacher. She is most famous for writing Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

A few days before she turned 61 (she was born 10 April 1954), she decided to write down everything she knew for sure about life and writing and she gave a speech about it on ted.com.

She says, “It was so liberating, though, to face the truth that I was no longer in the last throes of middle age, that I decided to write down every single true thing I know. People feel really doomed and overwhelmed these days, and they keep asking me what’s true. So I hope that my list of things I’m almost positive about might offer some basic operating instructions to anyone who is feeling really overwhelmed or beleaguered.”

12 Truths Anne Lamott Has Learned From Life And Writing

1. All truth is a paradox.

“It’s filled simultaneously with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, desperate poverty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together. I don’t think it’s an ideal system.”

2. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

3. There is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way.

“You can’t buy, achieve or date serenity and peace of mind.”

4. Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even those who seem to have it most together.

“…try not to compare your insides to other people’s outsides. It will only make you worse than you already are.”

5. Chocolate with 75 percent cocoa is not actually a food.

6. Every writer you know writes really terrible first drafts, but they keep their butt in the chair.

“That’s the secret of life. That’s probably the main difference between you and them. They just do it. They do it by prearrangement with themselves. They do it as a debt of honour. They tell stories that come through them one day at a time, little by little.”

7. Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from.

“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.”

8. Families are hard, hard, hard no matter how cherished and astonishing they may be.

“At family gatherings where you suddenly feel homicidal or suicidal –remember that in all cases, it’s a miracle that any of us, specifically, were conceived and born.”

9. Food: Try to do a little better.

10. Grace is spiritual WD-40 or water wings.

“The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and heals our world. To summon grace, say, “Help,” and then buckle up. Grace finds you exactly where you are, but it doesn’t leave you where it found you.”

11. God just means goodness.

“Emerson said that the happiest person on Earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot and look up.”

12.It’s so hard to bear when the few people you can’t live without die.

“Their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you. Grief and friends, time and tears will heal you to some extent. Tears will bathe and baptise and hydrate and moisturise you and the ground on which you walk.”

Watch the full speech here: 12 Truths I Learned From Life And Writing

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 by Amanda Patterson

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This article has 3 comments

  1. Anne

    I have 21 years more experience of living than the writer, and I endorse everything she says! Only one problem: I’d never heard of WD-40: so I Googled it. Apparently it’s the same sort of thing as Q20. Sometimes, I think we need an on-line translator to understand Americans!

  2. Sandra Baker

    I really enjoyed the portion of Ms. Lamott’s speech that you have here. It’s a shame that it isn’t in book-form! …or is it?…

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