EVER SINCE Christmas 2010, I’ve been consciously taking refuge in reading. It’s the only thing that actually helps in forcing my mind to stop all the chattering and relax for a bit.
I’m feeling very lucky, though, because I absolutely love reading! I can read a book in a heartbeat. I’m a firm believer that reading affects our writing, especially enriching our vocabulary. So, I copy passages that especially touch my heart, acquire knowledge and discover new things, analyze, interpret and appreciate those written words.
And, when I’m really lucky, I find answers to questions I never even knew I had.
Bird by bird is my favorite book for 2011, and this is one of the passages which caught my attention and keeps popping up in my mind.
What people somehow 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.
~ Anne Lamott
I love how honest and true it rings.
Because, let’s face it, most of us grew up learning how to do everything right – how not to color outside the lines, not to leave food on the plate, not to think of ourselves first, not to break the rules, not to step off the beaten path, not to make messes and mistakes, not to write about that particular embarrassing family holiday for our English composition homework because it’s private, and so on.
When, in fact, doing (well, trying to, at least) everything right only wears us down; perfectionism is tiring.
Coloring outside the lines makes us unique with a different vision than others’.
Leaving food on our plates means we’re done for right now, but we’ll eat again when we’re hungry.
Thinking of ourselves first isn’t selfish, but necessary, and makes us happier so we can make the people around us happier.
Breaking the right set of rules which don’t work for us sets us free to do something we love.
Stepping off the beaten path will lead us to find, and especially to make, our own way to where we need to go and not somewhere other people envision us to go.
Making messes and mistakes may set us one step back, or even more steps back . . . but we need to make mistakes in order to find out who we aren’t.
And finding out who we aren’t helps us find out who we are and why we’re here. There is no better way to learn and to grow.
And, by extension – with a little imagination and a lot of courage we can write about that particular embarrassing family holiday even if it feels like it’s private; because we’re writers and that’s what we do.
We’ll change names, setting and character descriptions, we’ll enhance specific traits and leave out others, we can even call it fiction; no one has to know it was a true story.
Maybe it won’t work, maybe it will be boring. Maybe we’ll rewrite it and it still won’t work. We’ll write something else.
Maybe we’ll write and rewrite a lot of stories which won’t work. They’ll challenge us!
But after writing them, we’ll know. We’ll get there.
We’ll know what we’re supposed to be writing.
When I’m not afraid to fail, I won’t. When I’m not afraid to fall down, falling down won’t feel like failure. I have fallen down enough to get more comfortable with it, to know how productive it can be, how necessary it is to growth. Still, when I sense the ground beneath me giving way, I have to remind myself that it’s OK if I falter.
I have to remind myself that it’s more than OK!
~ Jan Denise
Happy writing everyone!
~ Estrella Azul