All the notes were taken directly from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
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Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention and to communicate what is going on. It can help you soften, can wake you up.
And so if one of your heart’s deepest longings is to write, there are ways to get your work done, and a number of reasons why it is important to do so. And what are those reasons again? my students ask. Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life—wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.
Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.
If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days—listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. People need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion
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. It’s even possible to have this feeling when you see—really see—a police officer, when you look right at him and you see that he’s a living breathing person who like everyone else is suffering like a son of a bitch, and you don’t see him with a transparency over him of all the images of violence and chaos and danger that cops represent. You accept him as an equal.
One can find in writing a perfect focus for life. It offers challenge and delight and agony and commitment.
Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.
We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
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