Anne Lamott has been one of my all-time favorite authors since I read her famous 1993 best-seller, Operating Instructions. In this work, poignant and raw depictions of her struggles as a single, not-so-together new mom are offset by all the wickedly self-deprecating humor. As in all her books I've read, it could all be hopeless, were it not for the fact that she always manages to find some scrap of spiritual hope and truth to hang the mess of the story on. This theme does not feel contrived or born out of conceptual understandings, and it isn't used to sugar-coat the struggle, but she seems to turn all the lost-ness and teeth-gnashing into something touchable and helpful for us all. I think she writes her self down, as honestly as she can.
I found something she said in an interview a few years ago about writing that seemed to be a little kick in the pants by the Holy Spirit today. Sort of a, "hey kid, who loves ya? Keep using those keys, why don'tcha...leave the what-is-the-value to me." I thought it might be good for someone else to hear out there, too, so here you go.
"I think writing about spiritual themes is not really different from writing about secular or matters of family and loss and love and the ties that bind. Probably everything I know is in "Bird by Bird," so all I could add is it really holds true for me that old book with its banged up not-very-technological tool what I know is that when it is time to write again, which I hope will be next week, I'll use the one-inch picture frame on my desk and only try to see as much as I can through that, whether I'm writing about God and/or politics and I'll try to practice the spiritual principles of being firm but friendly, like Dr. Spock urged us to be with two-year-olds, and I'll let myself do a bad job. I'll speak to myself the way I'd like to be spoken to, I'll practice the Golden Rule as I'm working with myself to get some new material begun.
With spiritual stuff it's very easy to feel very shamed and very fussy and sentimental or desperate but I love love love coming upon other people's spiritual take on things, so that's what I urge people to keep writing and to find their voice. They can't tell their own spiritual truth in my voice or Jack Kornfield's voice or Natalie Goldberg's voice, or any other voice but their own. It's some of the hardest work we do, but it's also got that great payoff that when we find our voice and when we hone it and when we sing it, it puts us in touch with our human spirit in a way that almost nothing else can."
So, Sing It, Baby!