Dear Anne Lamott,
Twenty-nine days ago I pledged to praise one extraordinary human being each day for Lent. Forty shout-outs in forty days. Miraculously, I am writing more than ever and somehow I am not losing my mind and neglecting my personal hygiene, at least not entirely. I’m out of dry shampoo but that’s another matter.
I am actually feeling better today after four weeks of after-hours writing than I did before I began. I could not have done this without a) my gracious husband’s long-suffering demeanor and ravishing good looks, b) divine inspiration, c) gin, d) coffee and finally, e) your book Bird By Bird, specifically your chapters on shitty first drafts and perfectionism.
Because of your generous advice on writing I can now playfully muck about in a pile of unfinished business without second-guessing or loathing myself in the process. I can pat myself on the back and say, “Elissa! What terrific nonsense! These are very shitty drafts indeed! Nearly all of this will end up in the trash but look at all you’ve accomplished! Doesn’t it feel good to get that out of your system?!”
Yes. Yes it does. Backed-up thoughts have had me feeling mighty uncomfortable for much too long. Thank you for helping me keep my ideas flowing by recognizing how I am my own worst enemy when I allow perfectionism to creep into my head, steal my joy and ruin my work.
If only I had read Bird By Bird years ago. It would have spared me weeks of agony – months, even. I’m willing to bet I’d have more hair on my head too. Probably fewer dark circles under my eyes. One must not dwell in the past, though. My daughter is constantly reminding me to let it go. I’m learning to listen to her.
Thank you for your glorious wit and transparent heart. I want to be like you when I grow up.
Elissa Joy Watts
PS. My daughter did not pose for this picture. Your work speaks to her too, I guess.