A Writer’s Gift

In Anne Lamott’s splendid book “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” she speaks of how being a writer is being a giver. She says:

Two things put me in the spirit to give. One is that I have come to think of almost everyone with whom I come into contact as a patient in the emergency room. I see a lot of gaping wounds and dazed expressions. Or, as Marianne Moore put it, “The world’s an orphans home.” And this feels more true than almost anything else I know. But so many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, “Yes!” And I want to give people that feeling, too, of connection, communion.

The other is to think of the writers who have given a book to me, and then to write a book back to them. This gift they have given us, which we pass on to those around us, was fashioned out of their lives. You wouldn’t be a writer if reading hadn’t enriched your soul more than other pursuits. So write a book back … It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company. This is what the writer has to offer. (Lamott, 204)

Think of this when you are struggling with those word counts. Remember how wondrous your favorite books are, a passage that stayed with you, and then look back on your own work with new eyes. Above all, keep going! Writers are givers not because we’re incredibly special (though we often like to think that), but because others have come before us and given us the gifts of beautiful writing. We’re giving back, and the giving is reward enough.


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