August 16, 2020

Anne Lamott and Just Doing It

Last weekend, I listened to an online class given by one of my favorite writers of all time, Anne Lamott. For those of you not familiar with her, you have to check out Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, which I think is one of the funniest, wisest, best books of all time. I find myself laughing right out loud at some of her clever turns of phrase and the ironies of life that she points out with such candor.

As a side note for those of you wishing you would finally start writing, her book Bird by Bird is a fantastic guide to getting your writing mojo on. She has a way of being brutally honest, calling all of us (including herself) out, and being incredibly tender at the same time. I have wished for years that I could just hug her and thank her for being in the world at the same time I am.

While Anne was talking about writing, the wisdom she shared could be applied just as easily to painting, making music, cooking, gardening, any type of creative pursuit at all. She started out by saying that the first key is to STOP NOT WRITING. I love that so much. She talked about the many people she’s met over the years who have said how much they are looking forward to writing once they retire, once they buy that mountain retreat, once their last child is out of school, once they finally have time. She suggested that if you want to write and you’re not writing now, you’re not going to write when that perfect moment arrives either.

That caught me up short.

What have I been looking forward to doing when the perfect moment arrives that I’m not doing right now?

Anne has a phrase that she uses to describe where we begin. It disempowers that fear that it won’t be perfect because she calls the first step of creation a “sh!tty first draft.” This is brilliant because many of us want to create a perfect end product (a book, an article, a short story, a painting, a design, a gourmet dish). That desire for perfection can paralyze us to the point that we end up not attempting anything at all.

THIS IS ME.

Is this you?

For years I didn’t paint because every time I tried, the result was terrible. For years I didn’t garden in Florida because it was hot and things ate my plant leaves and well, red ants. For god’s sake, things died! For years I didn’t write because every time I tried, the result was mediocre at best and I never ended up with anything that resembled Hemingway. But in truth, my inner artist wants to paint. She wants to garden. She wants to write.

Saint Elizabeth (Gilbert) says, “Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.” Her book Big Magic is another of my favorites. Elizabeth and Anne have clearly been talking so they could gang up on me. Or maybe not. Maybe the Great Creator is showering me with wisdom so I can get out of my own way and just start doing the things I want to be doing. At any rate, I’m listening.

So guess what? I am painting. I have been painting with watercolors every weekend, attempting to finish at least one project each week. The result is so fulfilling. And I have an entire portfolio and vision board filled with small paintings. The watercolor pictured above is one of my latest, with inspiration from Let’s Make Art—can’t you see that as a fabric pattern?!?

And I am gardening. I have tomatoes, zucchini, thyme, rosemary, sage and mint. I even have banana peppers! I love visiting my garden each morning with a little stroll along the side of my house as I sip a cup of coffee. I water those tender plants and marvel at them, learning each week what is and isn’t working. Will I be making homemade zucchini bread in a few weeks? I hope so. But it’s okay if I have to try again. I have enjoyed these moments with my plants and communing with the spirit of the earth.

And also, I am writing. You read the results every week or so! In fact, this very post has been through a “sh!tty first draft” (and has definitely evolved into something more beautiful). And in all of it, the magic is in finding the courage to just start.

So whatever it is, whatever you want to do or to try, have courage, dear heart. This is what sanctuary is for—to support you in your endeavors. And tell me what you are doing! I want to know so I can support you (bonus points for pictures!). It doesn’t have to be perfect, just make something. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” — Kurt Vonnegut

With love, creativity and gratitude,

Lisa

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