as someone awake

Writing is teaching me to be happy, contrary to the tormented writer stereotype. It has something to do with what Anne Lamott says is the real gold of the writing life--getting to live as someone awake, eyes open to the beauty and mystery all around us. Writing my life stirs my awareness of it, and in observing it I'm actually freed from having to analyze it. That's why poetry can affect us so powerfully--not because it's invented, but because it is rooted in reality, profoundly observed. One book I recently read says, seeing is meaning. I'm done striving to understand life as though it were a cosmic puzzle. I don't need to be a Life Analyst. The simple invitation is to participate, hearing the music in the background, greeting passerby with my eyes and my welcome, and here I find joy.

making it

Julia CameronThe Right to Write
It is interesting to me that we ask a question about the writing life that we do not ask about other professions. For example, we do not say, "What are your odds of making it as an investment banker? As an elementary-school teacher? As a chemist?" In those, and most professions, we assume that an interest in pursuing the career implies a probable proclivity for it and a reasonable chance for success. Not so with writing. The truth is, when you want a writing career and are willing to do the work to get it, the odds work with you, not against you. This is simple metaphysical law. As Goethe advised us, "Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it--for action has magic grace and power in it."


Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life . . . I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it. Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground--you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it's going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.