On Being a "Tough" Writer

Question: When did you\r\nfirst learn to write seriously? 


Anne Lamott: My\r\nfather was a writer, so I grew up writing and reading and I was really\r\nencouraged by him.  I had some sort\r\nof gift and when it came time to try to find a publisher I had a little \r\nbit of\r\nan “in” because I had his agent I could turn to, to at least read my \r\ninitial\r\nofferings when I was about 20.  But\r\nthe only problem was that they were just awful, they were just terrible \r\nstories\r\nand my agent, who ended up being my agent, was very, very sweet about \r\nit, but\r\nit took about four years until I actually had something worth trying to \r\nsell.


Question: What is your\r\nworking method like?


Anne Lamott: For\r\nthe last 35 years, since I was full-time, since about the age of 20—even\r\nthough 15 of those years I was also doing other jobs to support my \r\nwriting,\r\nlike cleaning house and teaching tennis, and what not—my father really \r\ntaught\r\nme that you really develop the habit of writing and you sit down at the \r\nsame time\r\nevery day, you don’t wait for inspiration.  You \r\nsit down, it helps your subconscious understand that it’s\r\ntime to start writing and to relax down into that well of dream material\r\n and\r\nmemory and imagination.  So, I sit\r\ndown at the exact same time every day. \r\nAnd I let myself write really awful first drafts of things.  I take very short assignments; I will\r\ncapture for myself in a few words what I’m going to be trying to do that\r\nmorning, or in that hour.  Maybe I’m\r\ngoing to write a description of the lake out in Inverness in West Marin,\r\n where\r\nI live.  And so I try to keep\r\nthings really small and manageable. \r\nI have a one-inch picture frame on my desk so I can remember that\r\n that’s\r\nall I’m going to be able to see in the course of an hour or two, and \r\nthen I\r\njust let myself start and it goes really badly most mornings; as it does\r\n for\r\nmost writers. 


And the difference between a writer who toughs it \r\nout and\r\none who doesn’t is that you push through the parts where you know that \r\nyou’ve\r\njust written seven pages when all you’re looking for is one paragraph.

Recorded April 6, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Austin Allen

"The difference between a writer who toughs it out and one who doesn’t is that you push through the parts where you know that you’ve just written seven pages when all you’re looking for is one paragraph."

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