This was originally posted by Anne Lamott, here!
I don’t usually count on inspiration in my work. I count on the belief that if I show up, keep my butt in the chair, hold a potato gun to my head, and make myself sit there, something writerish will happen.
I’ll get some words down on paper, or the on screen.
They will suck.
There may be 185 of them, when what I was after is a sentence of 40 words. Or 18, or whatever. But if I stop to figure out where that one sentence is, I won’t get the next 203 words down, in which will be buried the 36 I seek, to describe the stream, or the truly most awful person in my life, or the light on my flowering pear tree.
See? It’s a lot like real life–incredibly time-consuming, with very little to show for it in terms of profit/loss, with endless, meaningless chatter, mostly about how hopeless it all is, and what a fraud and loser I am, and–most important–who is to blame for any current discomfort.
But inside that chatter, that bad self esteem and grandiosity and judgment and self-righteousness is the prize–me. My true me. Who I always was, deep inside, behind my eyes, taking it all in. My perfect precious self, who no one managed to ruin–not the parents, the culture, the worst men, the alcohol; not nothing.
The ancient Greeks called God the Really Real, but that also describes my being buried in all Fibber McGee closet that makes up the me you think you know–the persona, biography, survival tactics, scar tissue, foibles.
And inspiration is when the really real in us gets through the chatter. Not the drama and trauma addict with her Blanche DuBois inner storms, or the lawyer, and not the flight attendant, or the set director arranging people on the set we’ve created, with sand that trucks hauled in, and beach chairs. Just the child, and our animals selves, and an old but ageless person who takes it all in with a small smile, who has seen it all, who nibbles away on a bit of leftover scone, tends to the cats and the orchids.
That part of me, which gets a turn to speak sometimes when I am not agitating, enabling, scheming and multi-tasking, beckoned me into the glade of itself on Monday,even though I was busy It tricked me!
I somehow had the presence of mind to shut up, and let my mouth drop open. I was hushed, and a moment of inspiration seized me–or at least tugged gently on my sleeve. And I knew–out of the blue–if you believe in “out of the blue”–how to proceed with my work, and my life. I all of a sudden knew what I am up to now–and if you read these posts, you know I’ve been floundering and faking it for a couple of months now, since the publication of “Stitches.”
The thing is, though, that while I’ve been floundering, in limbo, I took the right actions. We take the action, and the insight follows, not the other way around. I pray, I hike, I try to take care of God’s children for Her, knowing that He or She will take care of me. I practice radical self-care, ie, I make myself artichokes, and put clean sheets on the bed, and wear shirts I feel pretty in. I take naps. I get my butt into my office chair come hell or high water, because, once again, as Woody Allen said, before I turned on him, 80% of life is just showing up.
And now I kind of semi/sort-of know what I am doing again. Wow. I know what the next two weeks work will entail, whereas a week ago, I was going to give up or put aside this mumbled jumbled garrulous narcissistic piece I’ve been slogging away at. Because inside those pages WAS a story worth telling, a story that is true and human and touching, and sort of funny–just like inside us, beyond all the facade and performance art is this wild touching tender being or person who has been watching all along and taking notes, whom no one and no thing could ruin.
But it came through me because I was not sitting around waiting for inspiration. I was getting my work done, as a debt of honor; showing up for my life.
I’ll tell you what came to me, as inspiration, over the transom, that you may not think is all that spectacular: when I was a child, I got lost all the time, because I was a space cadet. And once I got lost at the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. I was five, and weighed about ten pounds. I was missing for half an hour, in a crowd of 15,000. I was found by some friendly strangers–this was before all strangers were assumed to be homicidal pedophiles–and turned over to the care of a Grand National Rodeo girl. She stayed with me while an announcement went up over the PA system, that a five-year-old child would love for her daddy to come to livestock Pavilion. But I swear on my soul, I remember two things. I was not afraid. I did not know yet that if you were lost, you should be afraid. And I believed with every ounce of my being that when I grew up, I could be a Grand National Rodeo Girl.
I could be beautiful, with flowing blonde hair. I would wave and smile, astride my horse, and help lost children not to be afraid
I would lose this belief over the next few years, what with the funny hair and scrawny body. But I got it back Monday, that this IS what I am doing with my life, on this cold scary crowded planet. That this is who still lives inside me, and maybe inside you, too.
If you don’t know who Anne Lamott is, her book ‘Bird by Bird’, changed my world! Check her out on Facebook here! She is also the author of bestselling books like ‘Help, Thanks, Wow’ & ‘Stitches’.