There are a few writers that cause me to consider never writing another word. Anne Lamott, author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, is one. Ann Patchett is another. Patchett most recently had that effect on me when I read her collections of essays in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
I’m sure Ann and Anne would be horrified to hear my confession, but here’s what happens. I read one line—just one sentence—like Ann Patchett’s:
Hard work is first and foremost hard, and whether or not it’s ultimately rewarding is very rarely the thing you’re thinking of at the moment.
Or Anne Lamott’s:
You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.
And I have to stop reading because it’s that good. The wisdom, the structure, the word choice are masterful. I know I’ve never written something that good and I’m concerned I’m wasting people’s precious reading time.
“If I stop writing,” I think, “people will have more time to read better stuff.”
My teenage daughter made a similar comment about her art that sent me on a rant.
“Just because you aren’t Salvador Dali yet, doesn’t mean you should stop creating. Do not deprive this world of your creativity. And who cares if it’s not great in other’s eyes? It’s great in mine.”
Following my own motherly advice, I strive to observe and record like Patchett and Lamott and remember the point isn’t to be great, but simply to show up for your own personal brand of creativity.