Bird by Bird: Anne Lamott’s Timeless Advice on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity
Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.
Susan Sontag “That’s what a writer does — a writer pays attention to the world.”
Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.
The writer is a person who is standing apart, like the cheese in “The Farmer in the Dell” standing there alone but deciding to take a few notes. You’re outside, but you can see things up close through your
binoculars. Your job is to present clearly your viewpoint, your line of vision. Your job is to see people as they really are, and to do this, you have to know who you are in the most compassionate possible sense. Then you can recognize others.
To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be a part of the solution, to understand a little about life and to pass this on.
George Eliot famously observed, “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”