opinions about life, work, and spirituality

A Noble Vocation

January 29th, 2009

Last night I finished reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. My response to the following passages from her wonderful book is, “Amen” and “Amen”:

There are moments when I am writing when I think that if other people knew how good I felt right now, they’d burn me at the stake for feeling so good, so full, so much intense pleasure. I pay through the nose for these moments, of course, with lots of torture and self loathing and tedium, but when I am done for the day, I have something to show for it.

Don’t underestimate the gift of finding a place in the writing world: if you really work at describing creatively on paper the truth as you understand it, as you have experienced it, with the people or material who are in you, who are asking that you help them get written, you will come to a secret feeling of honor…No matter what happens in terms of fame and fortune, dedication to writing is a marching-step forward for where you were before, when you didn’t care about reaching out to the world, when you weren’t hoping to contribute, when you were just standing there doing some job into which you had fallen…Even if only the people in your writing group read your memoirs or stories or novel, even if you only wrote your story so that one day your children would know what life was like when you were a child and you knew the name of every dog in town – still, to have written your version is an honorable thing to have done…if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.

“So why does our writing matter, again?” they ask.
Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.

(Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott)