(This is one of a series of posts recounting my experience at Story Chicago. Read Part I here and Part II here.)
Back in 2008 I wrote a letter to Anne Lamott.
She emailed me back.
I printed it out and stuck it in my copy of her book, Operating Instructions.
At the end of the first day of Story, I got to meet Anne. I brought the note, still poking out of the book, and she asked to see it when I presented the book for her to autograph. I’ll be totally honest here…I have no idea what happened in that couple minutes I was with her. I typically don’t get nervous when I meet people, but Anne set me off. I knew the line behind me was long and I didn’t want to be “that guy” who carried on a conversation with her, but I wanted her to know how much it meant to me to meet her. So, I gave her the book, showed her the email, asked for a picture, gave her my card…and probably said a bunch of stuff that only made sense in my head. It was still awesome, though.
Anne’s talk to us was fantastic. What I loved is that you know she’s given this talk hundreds, if not thousands of times, and yet she made it personal to us. She was so comfortable (even though the timer threw her off) and real with us. To be honest, much of what she said I’ve heard before, having read her books and watched the documentary about her and clips on YouTube. Gosh, I sound like a stalker. I’m not, though. Just a fan. Even so, there were so many little nuggets to take away.
She encouraged us to steal pens because writers always have pens with them. “I steal them all the time. It’s not one of the Ten Commandments, so it’s ok,” she said. She also encouraged us to always have something to write on in our pocket. If we don’t write it down, we’ll forget it. This has happened so many times to me, even when I’m sure I’ll remember it. Write it down! Anne is also a proponent of consistent discipline. When we sit at that desk or table and do our job, God will meet us there. And we must only do the work in front of us. She likened it (not her analogy) to driving in the dark. We can only see a little ways in front of us, but we can make the whole journey that way. So it is with writing.
Anne also spoke about not comparing ourselves to others. We don’t have the time, nor is it necessary, to do so. In fact, as we all know but constantly seem to forget, it’s actually quite harmful. I’ve been created to be me, not anyone else. So, while I might want to “sound” like other writers, never should I want to be them.
I’ll never forget meeting Anne Lamott. Someday I’d love to take her to lunch and have an actual conversation.
A conversation where I remember what I say.
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