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Writing That's Too Honest Can Be "Devastating"

Question: Does a\r\nsuccessful writing life require personal integrity?

\r\n\r\n

Anne Lamott: I\r\ndon’t think I could make that argument. \r\nIn that a lot of the writers I loved best have had disastrous \r\nlives,\r\nlives that were full of secrecy and lives that were about getting the \r\nsurface\r\nto look right and teaching at the right university and having the right \r\ncrowd\r\nof friends and colleagues and contacts.... and I would say that I think,\r\n you know,\r\nthat’s a very interesting question. \r\nI think I could write about it much better than I could talk \r\nabout it\r\noff the cuff.  It’s the kind of\r\nwriting I do.  I’ve chosen to try\r\nto be honest and to try to share my experience, strength, and hope, and \r\nwhat\r\nhappens is, I tell all this stuff and a lot of it is just genuinely not \r\nthat\r\ninteresting.  And my experience as\r\na writer is that you really do write seven and eight pages to find the \r\nparagraph\r\nyou were after all along.  And\r\nhonesty is not necessarily interesting. \r\nI don’t want to hear about your dreams or your acid trips, \r\nprobably...\r\nunless you make them really interesting. \r\nAnd if you have a voice and \r\nyou’ve developed the skill over the years in the same way a \r\npianist\r\nwould develop the skills starting with the scales... if you’ve developed\r\n a way of\r\ntelling stories that draws me in and makes me trust you—like Spalding \r\nGray,\r\nsay, then he would tell stories that were not necessarily about very, \r\nvery far\r\nout stuff, but I would be riveted, but there’s another life, a very, \r\nvery\r\ntragic life lived by one of the funniest storytellers in the last 20\r\nyears. 

\r\n\r\n

So, honesty can be devastating, certainly to people\r\n in your\r\nfamily are not hoping that you’re going to be a writer who uses\r\nautobiographical material, who suddenly decides he or she is going to \r\ntell the\r\ntruth of what family life was like in the early ‘60s, or during the \r\nEisenhower\r\nyears.  I have been somebody who\r\nhas not written a great deal about the truth of my family’s life.  I have not—I so have the goods on\r\npeople.  I so have the goods\r\non my closest friends, and I don’t use it because my closest friends are\r\n more\r\nimportant to me than anything.  I\r\ndon’t write about the intimate details of my cousins and aunts and \r\nuncles, and\r\nmy mother and my father... because it’s not right to, for me. 

\r\n\r\n

Other writers have and they do feel that, \r\njust—Faulkner\r\nsaying that if you ran over your grandmother in the interest of writing a\r\nbrilliant novel that threw the lights on for thousands and thousands of \r\npeople,\r\nit’s a fair trade.  I don’t feel\r\nthat.

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

Unlike Faulkner, the "Imperfect Birds" author doesn't believe you should be willing to run over your grandmother for the sake of a great novel.

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