This is going to be one of my random artist-crush posts. Not a long one, but still. I wrote another one of Eric Whitacre ages ago, and now I’m gonna share a little Anne Lamott with you.
I’ve been re-reading/finishing Bird by Bird by said author, which was my playwriting “textbook” last semester. It’s a book about writing and it’s brilliant. Not only brilliant, but hilarious. She has a way of saying things that is fresh, funny, and profound. The book has made me cry, think and laugh aloud. I mean, that makes for a good author, no?
All throughout the book she says really profound things that not only apply to writing, but life as well. The other night I came upon this passage, where she is talking about writers block and how to overcome it.
The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given — that you are not in a productive creative period — you free yourself to begin filling up again.
I remind myself nearly every day of something that a doctor told me six months before my friend Pammy died. This was a doctor who always gave me straight answers. When I called on this particular night, I was hoping she could put a positive slant on some distressing developments. She couldn’t, but she said something that changed my life. “Watch her carefully right now,” she said, “because she’s teaching you how to live.”
I remind myself of this when I cannot get any work done: to live as if I am dying, because the truth is we are all terminal on this bus. To live as if we are dying gives us a chance to experience some real presence. Time is so full for people who are dying in a conscious way, full in the way that life is for children. They spend big, round hours. So instead of staring miserably at a computer screen trying to will my way into having a breakthrough, I say to myself, “Okay, hmmm, let’s see. Dying tomorrow. What should I do today?” Then I can decide to read Wallace Stevens for the rest of the morning or go to the beach or just really participate in ordinary life. Any of these will begin the process of filling me back up with observations, flavors, ideas, visions, memories. I might want to write on my last day on earth, but I’d also be aware of other options that would feel at least as pressing. I would want to keep whatever I did simple, I think. And I would want to be present.
This was a great perspective for me to get here while I’m not necessarily comfortable or in my element here in Segovia. The issue is acceptance, perspective. I can be in a frustrating sitution (like writers block, or living in a different culture) and be frustrated, or I can live like today is my last day and enjoy the fact that I am having an adventure. Kind of like I said in my last post. Anyhow, Anne Lamott’s way of looking at it is a good one. Are we living like we’re dying? I mean, there are tons of cliché quotes and songs about this, but there’s a reason.
Gotta leave this café now, but just wanted to share that. Anne Lamott. Read her. She’s genius.