Saturday, November 5, 2011


He taught the prisoners and me to put a little bit down on paper every day, and to read all the great books and plays we could get our hands on.  He taught us to read poetry.  He taught us to be bold and original, and to let ourselves make mistakes, and that Thurber was right when he said, "You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards."
- Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird

I recently started Bird by Bird after having bought it more than a year ago.  It's funny how I purchase recommended reading only to let them collect dust on my shelf, never allowing their pages to see the light of day or feel the pressing point of my pencil detailing how they are imprinting my life.  I read the above section and am reminded of the choking hold of expectation--of the thought, "What will they think of me."  I know that Anne's father taught actual prisoners at San Quentin and they are to whom she refers in this passage, yet aren't we all prisoners to our own expectations?  our own fears of making a mistake?  I know I was.  

The scratched and dented table surrounded by the plants I can't seem to keep alive, the breakfast nook with it's arch, the couch--these are the places I write.  I write there because most of the time my writing is accompanied by another something that concurrently needs to be accomplished.  My son wants to work on writing his letters and doing mazes so I move my writing to the table.  My children want me to sit, squished together, arms and legs everywhere on the couch while they revel in Mater's antics and watch Buck Denver talk to them about What's In the writing moves with me.  No matter where I am physically writing, there is a voice that goes with me that tells me I will make a mistake.  I will mess up.  I am not enough, my words are not original, my grammar is as holey as swiss. 

I try to be bold, yet my desire to be read dictates that I play it safe.  "Don't bare too much of your soul, they will hate it and then they will hate you.  Don't write that, they might not like it."  the voice taunts.
My answer is that if I don't bleed the thoughts onto paper, then what are they worth.

Have I overcome this fear?  By no means.  Every time I sit to write I am taunted by it.  I tell the voice when to shut-up.  I must understand that the voice only runs rampant because I give it permission to do so.  So, today, tell that voice to sit down, and shut up.

Writing takes time.  It is by far my favorite hobby, but I choose to write instead of exercise, write instead of read a book. As with all other things in life, if you say "yes" to writing, you must say "no" to something else.  If I am going to say "no" to something, I want to make sure the thing for which I am saying "no" is worth it.  Intellectual vomit isn't worth anything.  The old saying is "A penny for your thoughts."  We must understand that our thoughts are worth far more than a penny...even if no one wants to read them.  So today

be bold

take a stand

write about something you've never
written about before

make a mistake
(preferably one that doesn't hurt others
or is irreversibly life-altering, but nonetheless)

you might soar

you might fall
(but we'll be here cheering as you get back up)


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