Anne Lamott: Expose your mess, kill your darlings, and waste time

Anne Lamott crammed her address at the Festival of Faith and Writing with color, wit, irony, and grace:

You were made to be delighted in. But you may have been raised by parents who really should have raised orchids or pugs or something.

In the family I grew up in, if you had feelings, you had to go to your room. If you were asking scary questions, you had to go to your room.

If you’re going to get the healing you need, you have to expose the mess. You don’t get to invite God into just the living room where you’ve got everything all tricked out. You say, “Come on in, take a quick look around, but there are a couple of drawers you really need to see!”

The radio station in your head may have thoughts to share with you about how your writing is going, and it’s not good. So you say, “I hear you. Thank you for sharing.” And you get back to work.

You have to find the shape of your work and take out what doesn’t fit. “All writers have to kill their little darlings,” Jessica Mitford wrote. You have to take out things that you think are absolutely fabulous so your work doesn’t become overwrought.

You compare your insides to everybody else’s outsides. You’re taught to stay one step ahead of the abyss. And if the abyss opens up at your feet…you go to Ikea. And you buy a cute area rug.

If I don’t go to church, I’m going to be mentally ill. But it’s really easy to think, “Everybody would understand if I didn’t go to church today–I’m tired, I’ve been traveling, I think I’ll just sleep in.” But this is like saying, “Everybody would understand if I didn’t go to the gas station today.” Well, if I don’t go to the gas station…I won’t have any gas.

Waste more time. Stare up into space like a kid. Waste paper.

Admiring the view

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