Anne Lamott on Beach Bodies, Love, and Writing to Heal

Anne Lamott on Beach Bodies, Love, and Writing to Heal

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"It’s time to get serious about joy and fulfillment, work on our books, songs, dances, gardens."

Anne Lamott released her 21st book on her 70th birthday this year.

Somehow: Thoughts On Love became an instant New York Times bestseller—her first time in the #1 spot on this list.

This is fitting because she has spent a lifetime exploring spirituality, parenting, and being human in the most honest, searingly hilarious ways possible.

As we enter beach body season—with the comparisons, shame, and self-loathing that arise for many—it’s worth re-reading this bit from her writing classic, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:

"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you're 65 or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn't go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It's going to break your heart. Don't let this happen."

Of course, as with most of Anne’s memorable quotables, this one goes deeper than how we feel at the beach or swimming pool. It goes deeper than an unreached dream of writing your novel or memoir.

She shines a spotlight on a shadowy figure that looms behind most of us, whispering at any possible moment, “You are not enough. You have to work harder to prove that you’re worthy to be here. How dare you dream of feeling good and having dreams come true until you’ve earned your way out of the mess you’re in?”

Anne discusses perfectionism a lot in her work. Writers form a large section of her audience, but perfectionism is universal. Again from Bird by Bird:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

So, this voice of the oppressor wants to keep you cramped and insane your whole life.

But, Annie goes on:

“Is it okay with you that you blow off your writing, or whatever your creative/spiritual calling, because your priority is to go to the gym or do yoga five days a week? Would you give us one of those days back, to play or study poetry? To have an awakening? Have you asked yourself lately, ‘How alive am I willing to be?’ It’s all going very quickly. It’s mid-May, for God’s sake. Who knew. I thought it was late February.

It’s time to get serious about joy and fulfillment, work on our books, songs, dances, gardens.”

Whether you are a writer or not, you can use writing to awaken, to become alive again inside your life. Anaïs Nin could have been Anne’s older cousin with these words, “We write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it.”

If you would like to experiment with writing to awaken—writing to heal and create a life that matters to you—we invite you to visit the Writers Rising retreat page at which Anne will be a presenter later this year. Scroll down the page and you will be invited to enter your name and email for free access to a whole year of her favorite writing prompts—delivered to your inbox. You don’t need to purchase a ticket to her writing retreat, but you certainly can if you like!

Click here to enroll in 52 weeks of Anne Lamott’s writing prompts—free!

Sponsored by: A Writing Room—a Place for Writers and Those Who Want to Be

We offer daily prompts, on-demand courses, author-led book clubs, a feedback forum, a custom app to keep you connected and writing daily, and a thriving community of writers waiting to meet you.

Anne Lamott on Beach Bodies Love and Writing to Heal

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