Welcome, readers, to an exclusive interview with the highly acclaimed author, Ann Lamott. Renowned for her exceptional storytelling prowess, relatable narratives, and sharp wit, Lamott has enchanted readers around the world with her numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. From her bestselling novels like “Bird by Bird” to her thought-provoking memoirs such as “Traveling Mercies,” Lamott has captivated audiences with her honest portrayal of life’s joys and struggles.
In this enticing interview, we delve deep into the mind of Ann Lamott, exploring her creative process, personal experiences, and the wisdom she imparts through her writing. With a unique blend of humor, vulnerability, and profound insight, Lamott offers readers a glimpse into her world, sharing her thoughts on writing as a craft, the challenges she has faced, and the lessons she has learned along the way.
Throughout her career, Ann Lamott has encompassed a wide range of topics, including spirituality, motherhood, addiction, and social justice, often infusing her stories with unfiltered honesty and a touch of irreverence. Whether she is discussing the art of writing or baring her soul in poignant memoirs, Lamott’s sincerity and authenticity shine through, forging a deep connection with her readers.
Join us as we embark on a captivating journey, hearing Ann Lamott’s reflections on the power of storytelling, the importance of finding one’s voice, and the transformative nature of writing. Her unique perspective promises to inspire aspiring writers, avid readers, and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the human experience.
Who is Ann Lamott?
Ann Lamott, a renowned American author, is an influential figure in both the literary world and the realm of spirituality. Known for her honest and insightful writings, Lamott has captivated readers with her unique blend of vulnerability, humor, and profound wisdom. Through her books, essays, and speeches, she has touched the hearts of countless individuals, offering them solace, guidance, and inspiration.
Lamott’s writing style is often described as raw and authentic, as she fearlessly explores the depths of her own experiences, struggles, and triumphs. Her works delve into themes of faith, loss, addiction, forgiveness, and the complexities of human relationships. By sharing her own vulnerabilities, Lamott invites readers into her world, fostering a sense of connection and empathy that resonates deeply with others.
Among her most beloved works is “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” a book cherished by aspiring writers worldwide. Filled with practical advice and personal anecdotes, Lamott gently encourages readers to embrace the creative process, urging them to persevere through doubt and self-criticism. In this book, she offers invaluable insights into the craft of writing, emphasizing the importance of honesty, revision, and finding one’s unique voice.
Whether she is writing about love, loss, or the nuances of everyday life, Ann Lamott’s words have a way of touching the soul and inviting introspection. Her ability to find grace amidst chaos and to offer compassion in the face of adversity makes her an unwavering source of inspiration for many. By embracing vulnerability and sharing her unique insights, Lamott has become a guiding light for those navigating the complexities of writing, spirituality, and the human experience as a whole.
Here you can get more information about her by clicking Ann Lamott’s Facebook.
20 Thought-Provoking Questions with Ann Lamott
1.Can you provide ten Bird by Bird quotes to our readers?
1.You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
2. Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.
3. You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.
4. If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.
5. Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.
6. We all know we’re going to die; what’s important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this.
7. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.
8. I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.
9. Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.
10. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.
2. Can you share the inspiration behind the title “Bird by Bird”?
The title “Bird by Bird” was inspired by a piece of advice I received from my older brother when I was feeling overwhelmed by the task of writing a school report on birds. I was procrastinating and panicking about how to tackle such a daunting project. Seeing my distress, my brother kindly advised me to take it “bird by bird.” He meant that instead of focusing on the overwhelming whole, I should break it down into manageable parts and take it one step at a time.
This idea resonated with me not only in writing but also in life. It reminded me to approach challenges with a sense of patience and persistence, breaking them into smaller, more achievable tasks. By taking things “bird by bird,” we can overcome our fears, doubts, and insecurities, and make progress towards our goals.
In the context of the book, “Bird by Bird” serves as a metaphor for the writing process itself. Writing can be an intimidating and overwhelming endeavor, but by adopting a step-by-step approach, we can navigate through the complexities and gradually bring our ideas to life. The title captures the essence of the book, which is a collection of essays and insights about writing, creativity, and life.
3. In your book, you mention the concept of “shitty first drafts.” Could you elaborate on its importance in the writing process?
“Shitty first drafts” is a term I use to emphasize the significance of allowing ourselves to write poorly in the initial stages of the creative process. The idea behind this concept is that all writers, regardless of their experience or skill level, produce imperfect first drafts. In fact, it’s rare for anyone to create a flawless piece of writing right from the start.
By giving ourselves permission to write badly, we can overcome the fear of failure or judgment that often hinders our creativity. This mindset frees us from the pressure of perfection and encourages us to simply get our thoughts and ideas onto the page without self-censorship. It allows us to embrace the messiness of the creative process and focus on generating material rather than obsessing over its quality.
Writing a first draft is like laying the foundation for a building; it’s where we establish the structure and overall direction of our work. Just as construction workers don’t worry about the final appearance during the early stages, writers should prioritize getting their ideas down without striving for perfection. By doing so, we unlock the potential for discovering unexpected insights, developing rich characters, or refining our arguments through the act of writing itself.
Once we have completed our shitty first draft, we have something tangible to work with—an imperfect but tangible creation that can be refined, edited, and revised. This subsequent editing and revising phase is where the real magic happens, where we can shape and mold the raw material into a more polished and coherent piece of writing. But without the initial messy first draft, we wouldn’t have anything to improve upon.
4. How did your own experiences and challenges shape the advice you give in “Bird by Bird”?
In “Bird by Bird,” my own experiences and challenges have played a significant role in shaping the advice I give. Throughout my life, I have faced numerous obstacles and struggled with self-doubt, writer’s block, and the constant pressure to be perfect. These personal challenges have given me a deep understanding of the fears and insecurities that writers often grapple with.
By sharing my own vulnerabilities and discussing the difficulties I’ve encountered in my writing journey, I aim to provide readers with a sense of empathy and reassurance. I want aspiring writers to know that they are not alone in their struggles and that even seasoned authors face similar challenges.
Furthermore, my experiences have taught me the importance of perseverance and the value of embracing imperfection. Writing is a messy process, and it’s easy to get caught up in self-criticism and judgment. Through my own journey, I have learned the significance of taking small steps, focusing on the process rather than the end result, and understanding that first drafts are meant to be imperfect.
5. Can you discuss the significance of the term “short assignments” and how it helps overcome writer’s block?
The term “short assignments” has great significance when it comes to overcoming writer’s block. When faced with a daunting writing task, whether it’s an essay, a chapter, or even a whole book, it can be overwhelming and paralyzing for many writers. The enormity of the project often leads to self-doubt, perfectionism, and ultimately, writer’s block.
However, breaking down the larger task into smaller, manageable “short assignments” can make a world of difference. Instead of focusing on the entire project at once, you shift your attention to accomplishing small, specific tasks that are more easily achievable. These short assignments could involve writing a paragraph, outlining a section, researching a particular topic, or simply jotting down ideas in a notebook.
By tackling these bite-sized tasks, you eliminate the feeling of being overwhelmed and create a sense of progress. Each completed short assignment serves as a mini-victory, boosting motivation and confidence. Moreover, it helps to build momentum and establish a consistent writing habit.
Another benefit of working on short assignments is that they provide a lower barrier to entry. Often, writer’s block stems from the fear of producing something subpar or not meeting one’s own high expectations. But with short assignments, the pressure is lessened, and the focus shifts from perfection to simply getting words on the page. This allows for experimentation, exploration, and creativity to flow freely without the burden of excessive self-criticism.
6. Your book emphasizes the importance of observation and being present in the moment. How does this influence the writing process?
Observation and being present in the moment are crucial elements in the writing process. When we observe our surroundings with a keen eye, we notice the intricate details that often go unnoticed. This level of awareness allows us to capture those moments and descriptions in our writing, making it more vivid and engaging for readers.
Being present in the moment also helps us tap into our emotional experiences and connect with our characters on a deeper level. By fully immersing ourselves in the present moment, we can better understand the nuances of human emotions and translate them onto the page with authenticity.
Moreover, observation and presence help writers overcome the hurdle of writer’s block. When we pay attention to the world around us, ideas flow more readily. We become open to inspiration from everyday occurrences, conversations, or even random thoughts. These observations act as seeds for our writing, giving us fresh perspectives and ideas to explore.
In addition, being present in the writing process keeps us focused and committed to our work. Writing requires discipline and dedication, and by staying present, we avoid distractions and stay connected to our creative flow. It allows us to fully engage with our ideas and characters, leading to more honest and impactful storytelling.
7. Could you talk about the role that humor plays in both your writing and “Bird by Bird”?
Humor plays a significant role in both my writing and “Bird by Bird.” In my work, I believe that humor is a powerful tool that can connect people, illuminate truth, and bring a sense of lightness to difficult subjects. It allows readers to engage with challenging topics without feeling overwhelmed or discouraged.
In my writing, I often use humor to explore the human condition and share personal anecdotes. By infusing humor into my stories, I aim to create a relatable atmosphere that invites readers to laugh at their own flaws and find solace in our shared imperfections. Humor helps establish a connection between writer and reader, fostering a sense of camaraderie and understanding.
In “Bird by Bird,” humor serves multiple purposes. One of them is to alleviate the anxiety and self-doubt that many writers experience. Writing can be a daunting task, and humor acts as a gentle reminder to not take ourselves too seriously. Embracing the absurdity of the writing process can make it feel more manageable and enjoyable.
Additionally, humor can serve as a vehicle for conveying deeper truths. Through amusing anecdotes and witty observations, I strive to shed light on universal aspects of the human experience. By blending humor with honesty, vulnerability, and insight, I hope to create a multi-dimensional reading experience that resonates with my audience.
8. What strategies do you suggest for dealing with self-doubt and perfectionism while writing?
Embrace Imperfection: Recognize that perfection is an unattainable goal. Instead of striving for flawlessness, focus on progress and growth. Understand that your writing will never be perfect, but it can always be improved.
Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that self-doubt and perfectionism are natural parts of the writing process. Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself, knowing that not every sentence or paragraph will be perfect. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.
Practice Freewriting: Use freewriting as a tool to overcome self-doubt and perfectionism. Set aside time to write without any constraints or judgment. Let your thoughts flow freely onto the page without worrying about grammar, structure, or coherence. This exercise helps bypass your inner critic and allows you to tap into your creativity.
Develop a Writing Routine: Establish a consistent writing routine that works for you. Set aside specific times each day or week dedicated solely to writing. By creating a habit, you’ll build confidence and momentum, which can help combat self-doubt and perfectionism.
9. “Bird by Bird” discusses the value of community and finding support as a writer. How has this been significant in your own journey as an author?
Writing can often be a solitary endeavor, filled with self-doubt and challenges. In my experience, having a supportive community of fellow writers, friends, and mentors has been invaluable. They have provided encouragement, understanding, and insightful feedback that helped guide me through difficult times.
Through sharing our work, ideas, and struggles, we create a sense of camaraderie that nourishes our creative spirits. Writing communities offer a safe space where we can discuss our fears, insecurities, and triumphs, knowing that others can relate to our experiences. It is within this supportive environment that we find solace and inspiration.
Furthermore, being part of a writing community exposes us to diverse perspectives and styles, expanding our own understanding of the craft. Engaging with other writers allows us to learn from their successes and failures, helping us become better authors. Their feedback and constructive criticism challenge us to push our boundaries and refine our skills.
I have also found mentors to be crucial in my journey as an author. These individuals provide guidance, wisdom, and encouragement based on their own experiences. Their guidance helps shape our writing process, teaches us discipline, and inspires us to persevere.
10. Can you share any personal anecdotes about overcoming obstacles or setbacks in your writing career?
Throughout my writing career, I’ve faced numerous obstacles and setbacks, just like any artist or author. One significant setback that comes to mind is when I received countless rejection letters for my first novel manuscript. It was a challenging and disheartening time, as I had poured my heart and soul into that project.
However, instead of giving up, I decided to view these rejections as valuable feedback. I took the time to dissect each rejection letter, looking for common criticisms and areas in which I could improve my craft. This process allowed me to grow as a writer and understand the publishing industry better.
Another obstacle I encountered was a severe case of writer’s block. There were times when I felt completely stuck, unable to put words on the page. To overcome this, I embraced the idea that sometimes it’s necessary to write badly in order to write well. By giving myself permission to produce messy and imperfect drafts, I was able to push past the blockage and find my creativity again.
11. Your book touches upon the idea of finding one’s authentic voice. How can aspiring writers discover and develop their unique writing style?
Discovering and developing your unique writing style is a deeply personal and ongoing process for aspiring writers. Here are a few suggestions to help you on this journey:
Read widely: Immerse yourself in different genres, authors, and writing styles. This exposure will broaden your perspective and inspire you to explore various approaches to storytelling.
Write regularly: The more you write, the better you become. Make it a habit to write every day, even if it’s just for a short time. This consistent practice allows you to experiment, refine your skills, and find what resonates with you.
Embrace authenticity: Don’t be afraid to let your voice shine through in your writing. Be honest, genuine, and true to yourself. Your unique experiences, beliefs, and emotions will shape your style and make your writing distinct.
12. “Bird by Bird” addresses the fear of criticism and judgment from others. How can writers navigate this aspect of the creative process?
Navigating the fear of criticism and judgment from others is an essential aspect of the creative process for writers. In my book, “Bird by Bird,” I emphasize the importance of recognizing and addressing this fear. Here are a few strategies that can help writers navigate this aspect:
Write for yourself first: Start by writing for your own enjoyment and self-expression, rather than worrying about what others might think. This mindset allows you to focus on your authentic voice and ideas without being overly influenced by external judgment.
Seek constructive feedback: Instead of avoiding criticism altogether, seek out trusted individuals who can provide constructive feedback on your work. Choose people who genuinely want to see you grow as a writer and are able to offer thoughtful suggestions for improvement. Remember, not all feedback will be helpful, so learn to discern valid critiques from unhelpful opinions.
13. Can you discuss the importance of rewriting and revision in producing quality work?
Rewriting and revision play a vital role in producing quality work. As writers, we often have a vision of what we want to convey, but the initial draft rarely captures that vision perfectly. This is where rewriting comes in. It allows us to refine our ideas, clarify our message, and improve the overall structure and flow of our writing.
First and foremost, rewriting helps us to uncover the true essence of our work. Through repeated revisions, we can peel away the layers of unnecessary information and dig deeper into the core of our message. This process allows us to explore different angles, perspectives, and possibilities, leading to a more profound and authentic piece of writing.
Moreover, revision provides an opportunity to enhance the clarity and coherence of our work. Writing is a form of communication, and it’s essential for our readers to understand and engage with our ideas effectively. By revising our drafts, we can eliminate confusing passages, reorganize content, and ensure that our thoughts are expressed in a logical and coherent manner. This iterative process allows us to bridge the gaps between our intentions and the readers’ understanding.
14. Your book talks about the concept of “looking at things backward.” Could you explain how this perspective can enhance creativity?
When we approach a creative task or problem in the usual way, our thinking can become constrained and predictable. However, by intentionally shifting our perspective and examining things backward, we invite ourselves to think outside the box and explore unconventional possibilities.
By reversing our usual thought processes, we challenge our assumptions and break free from habitual patterns of thinking. This reversal allows us to see familiar subjects or situations from a different angle, unveiling hidden aspects and unexplored connections. It opens up new avenues for exploration and encourages innovative ideas to emerge.
Moreover, looking at things backward can help us overcome creative blocks. When we feel stuck or uninspired, approaching a problem from an unconventional angle can disrupt our fixed mindset and stimulate our imagination. It encourages divergent thinking and helps us discover unexpected solutions.
In Bird by Bird, I emphasize that looking at things backward is not about being illogical or nonsensical. Rather, it is about leveraging lateral thinking techniques to reframe our perceptions and generate original ideas. By embracing this perspective, we tap into the boundless nature of our creativity, enabling us to see the world with fresh eyes and produce more imaginative and authentic work.
15. How do you approach the balance between structure and creativity when writing?
When it comes to balancing structure and creativity in writing, I believe that both elements are crucial. Structure provides a framework within which our ideas can flourish and be effectively communicated, while creativity allows for originality and personal expression.
To achieve this balance, I often start by outlining or creating a rough structure for my writing. This helps me organize my thoughts and ensures that there is a logical flow to my piece. However, I don’t restrict myself to the outline religiously. Instead, I use it as a flexible guide that allows room for creativity along the way.
While writing, I give myself permission to explore new ideas, take detours, and let my imagination run wild. This creative freedom brings freshness and vitality to my work. Sometimes, the most unexpected ideas arise when we allow ourselves to step outside the boundaries of a rigid structure.
That being said, it’s important to remember that too much structure can stifle creativity, just as too much freedom can lead to chaos. So, I strive to strike a balance between the two. I find that it helps to set aside dedicated time for brainstorming, freewriting, or experimenting with different writing techniques. By doing so, I can nurture my creative spirit while maintaining a sense of discipline.
16. Can you provide practical tips on time management and establishing a writing routine?
Set aside dedicated writing time: Carve out specific time slots in your schedule for writing. Treat this time as sacred and prioritize it just like any other important commitment.
Create a conducive writing environment: Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can focus and let your creativity flow. Minimize distractions by turning off notifications on your phone or using website blockers if needed.
Start with small writing goals: Begin by setting achievable writing goals, such as writing for 15 minutes a day or completing a certain number of words. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your writing sessions as you develop consistency.
Use productivity techniques: Experiment with different techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working for focused intervals (e.g., 25 minutes) followed by short breaks. This can help boost productivity and prevent burnout.
17. “Bird by Bird” highlights the connection between writing and self-discovery. Could you elaborate on this relationship?
Through the act of writing, we tap into our thoughts, emotions, and experiences. It becomes a vehicle for introspection and self-reflection. As we sit down to write, we confront our innermost thoughts, fears, desires, and vulnerabilities. In this process, we discover truths about ourselves that may have otherwise remained hidden or unexplored.
Writing also provides us with a means to make sense of our experiences. By examining our memories and narratives, we gain insights into our own identities, beliefs, and values. We become more aware of our strengths, weaknesses, and personal growth areas. Through storytelling, we create meaning and find connections between different aspects of our lives.
Moreover, the act of writing offers a space for catharsis and healing. It allows us to express our joys, sorrows, and everything in between. By giving voice to our emotions through words, we release pent-up feelings, gain clarity, and find solace. Writing becomes a way to process our past, understand our present, and envision our future.
18. Your book encourages writers to embrace imperfections. How can writers find the courage to share their work, even if it feels incomplete?
Accept the first draft: Understand that every great piece of writing starts with a messy, imperfect first draft. Give yourself permission to write without judgment and allow your ideas to flow freely. Remember, you can always refine and improve later.
Embrace vulnerability: Recognize that sharing your work is an act of vulnerability. Understand that no piece of writing is ever truly complete or perfect. By sharing our imperfect creations, we connect with readers on a deeper level, knowing that they, too, are flawed humans seeking connection.
Seek feedback from trusted sources: Find a supportive community of fellow writers or trusted friends who can provide constructive criticism. Sharing your work with others allows you to receive valuable insights and perspectives that can help you grow as a writer.
Focus on progress, not perfection: Shift your mindset away from striving for perfection and instead focus on the progress you’ve made. Understand that each step forward, no matter how small, brings you closer to becoming the writer you aspire to be.
19. What message do you hope readers take away from “Bird by Bird” after reading your book?
Perfection is not the goal: Striving for perfection often hinders creativity and progress. Instead, focus on embracing imperfections, allowing mistakes, and understanding that the first draft is just the beginning. The real magic happens during the revision process.
Cultivate self-compassion: Writing is inherently vulnerable, and it’s easy to judge ourselves harshly. I hope readers learn to be kinder to themselves and understand that everyone experiences doubts and struggles. By treating ourselves with compassion, we can overcome self-doubt and find our unique voice.
Find the joy in writing: Writing is not only about the end result but also about the joy and fulfillment it brings during the creative process. By finding pleasure in the act of writing, readers can unlock their creativity and enjoy the journey.
20. Finally, can you share more books like Bird by Bird?
The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, this book focuses on nurturing creativity and overcoming creative blocks. It offers exercises and techniques to help artists and writers tap into their full potential.
“Telling True Stories” by Mark Kramer, it is an insightful and comprehensive guidebook that equips aspiring writers with the knowledge and skills necessary to craft compelling narrative nonfiction.
Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg, in this book, Goldberg explores the writing process and encourages writers to develop a daily writing practice. The book is filled with prompts, insights, and personal anecdotes.