Anne Lamott Quotes on Writing: The Complete Collection

anne lamott quotes on writing
by CJ McDaniel // March 16 // 0 Comments

While some writers rely primarily on their imagination, others sprinkle a few from their experience to make compelling fiction. As for Anne Lamott, her writing involves frequent references to personal issues, such as her struggle to beat addiction to drugs and alcohol. What boosted her popularity was her raw and honest account of the ordeal of new motherhood on Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First YearBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life was another well-known work from Anne Lamott, consisting of her beliefs on writing and her career. With these facts, it’s natural to assume how many writers look up to her, searching for Anne Lamott’s quotes on writing for inspiration.

American novelist and non-fiction writer Anne Lamott was born in San Francisco, California, on April 10, 1954. Her passion for writing started early. However, her professional writing career only began when she wrote her first novel, Hard Laughter. That partly autobiographical book drew basis on her father’s brain cancer diagnosis—the situation that prompted her to write. Since then, her writings involve some personal issues she faced, such as her battle with addiction, heartache, and loss. Her novels chronicled the messy side of life, and readers love how she paired her stories with her trademark humor.

Becoming an inspirational author wasn’t on Anne Lamott’s bucket list as a writer. However, her works received largely positive reviews—proof of how her honesty and self-effacing humor worked in her writings. Apart from that, many aspiring, non-professional, and professional writers think highly of her for her brilliance in her craft. Thus, it’s understandable why Anne Lamott’s quotes on writing are one of her top-searched topics online.

Anne Lamott Quotes About Writing

Anne Lamott is a well-known and acclaimed novelist and non-fiction writer. Her works drew inspiration from her life experiences and issues. They touched subjects like addiction, depression, single parenthood, and Christianity—themes most people refrain from reading. However, her trademark humor completes the formula, so it’s unquestionable how many readers love her work. Furthermore, various awards prove her excellence in writing, including being inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

Are you ready to see Anne Lamott’s quotes about writing? If so, buckle up and see the collection below.

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

Anne Lamott

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Anne Lamott

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.

Anne Lamott

You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart–your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born.

Anne Lamott

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.

Anne Lamott

My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.

Anne Lamott

We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.

Anne Lamott

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship

Anne Lamott

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.

Anne Lamott

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.

Anne Lamott

Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises.

Anne Lamott

You keep working on your piece over and over, trying to get the sections and paragraphs and sentences and the whole just right, but there’s a point at which you can tell you’ve begun hurting the work with your perfectionism. Then you have to release the work to new eyes.

Anne Lamott

I don’t know where to start,” one [writing student] will wail. Start with your childhood, I tell them. Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can. Flannery O’ Connor said that anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done. Don’t worry about doing it well yet, though. Just get it down.

Anne Lamott

Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly.

Anne Lamott

Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it is right.

Anne Lamott

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.

Anne Lamott

E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.

Anne Lamott

Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.

Anne Lamot

You don’t want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can’t fill up when you’re holding your breath. And writing is about filling up, filling up when you are empty, letting images and ideas and smells run down like water – just as writing is also about dealing with the emptiness.

Anne Lamott

I write everything as a wake-up call to myself and others, to anyone who may have gotten tired of hitting the snooze button.

Anne Lamott

Needless to say, there was no one around remotely fitting the description of a normal person: I was at a writing conference.

Anne Lamott

Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong. It is no wonder if we sometimes tend to take ourselves perhaps a bit too seriously.

Anne Lamott

The real payoff is the writing itself, that a day when you have gotten your work done is a good day, that total dedication is the point.

Anne Lamott

The society to which we belong seems to be dying or is already dead. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but clearly the dark side is rising. Things could not have been more odd and frightening in the Middle Ages. But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion-not to look around and say, ‘Look at yourselves, you idiots!,’ but to say, ‘This is who we are.

Anne Lamott

Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

Anne Lamott

I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.

Anne Lamott

Write as if your parents are dead.

Anne Lamott

Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.

Anne Lamott

Rituals are a good signal to your unconscious that it is time to kick in.

Anne Lamott

When what we see catches us off guard, and when we write it as realistically and openly as possible, it offers hope. You look around and say, Wow, there’s that same mockingbird; there’s that woman in the red hat again. The woman in the red hat is about hope because she’s in it up to her neck, too, yet every day she puts on that crazy red hat and walks to town.

Anne Lamott

If you always dreamed of writing a novel or a memoir, and you used to love to write, and were pretty good at it, will it break your heart if it turns out you never got around to it? If you wake up one day at eighty, will you feel nonchalant that something always took precedence over a daily commitment to discovering your creative spirit? If not–if this very thought fills you with regret–then what are you waiting for?

Anne Lamott

Don’t underestimate this gift of finding a place in the writing world: if you really work at describing creatively on paper the truth as you understand it, as you have experienced it, with the people or material who are in you, who are asking that you help them get written, you will come to a secret feeling of honor.

Anne Lamott

There are moments when I am writing when I think that if other people knew how I felt right now, they’d burn me at the stake for feeling so good, so full, so much intense pleasure.

Anne Lamott

There are a lot of us, some published, some not, who think the literary life is the loveliest one possible, this life of reading and writing and corresponding. We think this life is nearly ideal.

Anne Lamott

I’m drawn to almost any piece of writing with the words ‘divine love’ and ‘impeachment’ in the first sentence. But I know the word ‘divine’ makes many progressive people run screaming for their cute little lives, and so one hesitates to use it.

Anne Lamott

Life does not seem to present itself to me for my convenience, to box itself up nicely so I can write about it with wisdom and a point to make before putting it on a shelf somewhere.

Anne Lamott

Creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Anne Lamott

There is a door we all want to walk through and writing can help you find it and open it.

Anne Lamott

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).

Anne Lamott

Publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is.

Anne Lamott

You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you. You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist.

Anne Lamott

Shirley Jackson said that a confused reader is an antagonistic reader, and I live by that. It’s okay to start anywhere, and to let yourself write a big sloppy overly-detailed first draft. You just jump in, knowing that the water will be cold at first, but no one is making you swim.

Anne Lamott

I am not writing to try and convert people to fundamental Christianity. I am just trying to share my experience, strength and hope, that someone who is as messed up and neurotic and scarred and scared can be fully accepted by our dear Lord, no questions asked.

Anne Lamott

I didn’t write about my mother much in the third year after she died. I was still trying to get my argument straight: When her friends or our relatives wondered why I was still so hard on her, I could really lay out the case for what it had been like to be raised by someone who had loathed herself, her husband, even her own name.

Anne Lamott

My father really taught me that you really develop the habit of writing and you sit down at the same time every day, you don’t wait for inspiration.

Anne Lamott

When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.

Anne Lamott

That thing you had to force yourself to do-the actual act of writing-turns out to be the best part.

Anne Lamott

If you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses dont go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.

Anne Lamott

Write regularly, whether you feel like writing or not, and whether you think what you’re writing is any good or not.

Anne Lamott

I don’t write about the intimate details of my cousins and aunts and uncles, and my mother and my father because it’s not right to, for me.

Anne Lamott

I don’t see myself as a deep philosopher. The things I write about tend to be what we all have to face, or consider, or experience, that I talk about with my friends and brothers. It’s universal stuff, told in my own voice, my own details and truth, which is all I have to offer.

Anne Lamott

You just have to keep getting out of your own way so that whatever it is that wants to be written can use you to write it.

Anne Lamott

If you are hoping to find your self-worth and fulfillment in other peoples’ opinion of your writing, you will never find it.

Anne Lamott

The stuff I write about is pretty universal, the things my closest friends and I talk about – our anxiety about being here on this scary planet, during these scary times, as vulnerable as kittens, having lost so many people I couldn’t live without.

Anne Lamott

You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.

Anne Lamott

The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. Even if you never publish a word, you have something important to pour yourself into.

Anne Lamott

Writing is how I communicate my deepest beliefs, and what I hope are helpful observations about our dual citizenship, as children of God, as regular old mixed-up, worried, flawed, precious human beings.

Anne Lamott

I write because writing is the gift God has given me to help people in the world.

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott Quotes For Writer

Although inspiring people wasn’t her first motive in writing, Lamott and her writings eventually found their way to motivate and capture the hearts of many readers and writers. The following collection is specifically for writers who need inspiration or encouragement to continue and never give up on their craft. While the field may appear daunting at times, Lamott’s words of wisdom and insight will give non-professional and professional writers the push they need.

One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.

Anne Lamott

If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.

Anne Lamott

To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be a part of a solution, to understand a little about life and to pass this on.

Anne Lamott

Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.

Anne Lamott

We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. The writer’s job is to turn the unspeakable into words – not just into any words, but if we can, into rhythm and blues.

Anne Lamott

For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

Anne Lamott

Dialogue that is written in dialect is very tiring to read. If you can do it brilliantly, fine. If other writers read your work and rave about your use of dialect, go for it. But be positive that you do it well, because otherwise it is a lot of work to read short stories or novels that are written in dialect. It makes our necks feel funny.

Anne Lamott

I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said that you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)

Anne Lamott

We write to expose the unexposed. Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer’s job is to see what’s behind it, to see the bleak unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words – not just into any words but if we can, into rhythm and blues. You can’t do this without discovering your own true voice, and you can’t find your true voice and peer behind the door and report honestly and clearly to us if your parents are reading over your shoulder.

Anne Lamott

Being a writer is part of a noble tradition, as is being a musician – the last egalitarian and open associations. No matter what happens in terms of fame and fortune, dedication to writing is a marching-step forward from where you were before, when you didn’t care about reaching out to the world, when you weren’t hoping to contribute, when you were just standing there doing some job into which you had fallen.

Anne Lamott

My father was a writer, so I grew up writing and reading and I was really encouraged by him. I had some sort of gift and when it came time to try to find a publisher I had a little bit of an “in” because I had his agent I could turn to, to at least read my initial offerings when I was about 20. But the only problem was that they were just awful, they were just terrible stories and my agent, who ended up being my agent, was very, very sweet about it, but it took about four years until I actually had something worth trying to sell.

Anne Lamott

I honestly think that in order to be a writer you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here?

Anne Lamott

Jealousy is such a direct attack on whatever measure of confidence you’ve been able to muster. But if you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with it, because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know-people who are, in other words, not you.

Anne Lamott

My experience as a writer is that you really do write seven and eight pages to find the paragraph you were after all along.

Anne Lamott

This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of–please forgive me–wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds.

Anne Lamott

My dad taught me that to be a writer is a decision and a habit. It’s not anything lofty, and it doesn’t have that much to do with inspiration. You have to develop the habit of being a certain way with yourself. You do it at the debt of honor.

Anne Lamott

If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days–listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you’ve taken in, all that you’ve overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott Quotes About Books

Like most writers, Anne Lamott also displayed a fascination with books. She would often state something about books whenever given a chance to teach creative writing at conferences and universities.

If you’re here for her quotes about books, then the upcoming list is for you. The collection contains her insight on the charm of books and what it does for readers and writers alike.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

Anne Lamott

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

Anne Lamott

I used to tell my writing students that they must write the books they wished they could come upon – because then the books they hungered and thirsted for would exist.

Anne Lamott

Two things put me in the spirit to give. One is that I have come to think of everyone with whom I come into contast 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 orphan’s 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, communication.

Anne Lamott

Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

Anne Lamott

For some of us, good books and beautiful writing are our ultimate solace, even more comforting than exquisite food.

Anne Lamott

I devoured books like a person taking vitamins, afraid that otherwise I would remain this gelatinous narcissist, with no possibility of ever becoming thoughtful, of ever being taken seriously.

Anne Lamott

I’m very successful, but there are 50,000 general interest books published every year. If you don’t want to read mine, there are others.

Anne Lamott

No matter how people mess with you or let you down, or how you let yourself down, a good book means that when you get in bed that night, you have a good hour. I feel like you pay all day for that hour. That’s what books mean to me. I can open this two-dimensional , flat white page with squiggly little black marks on them, and someone has created this world that you’re going to enter into.

Anne Lamott

E-books are great for instant gratification – you see a review somewhere of a book that interests you, and you can start reading it five minutes later.

Anne Lamott

I try to write the books I would love to come upon that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness – and that can make me laugh.

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott Quotes About Character

Creating characters is one of the crucial aspects of writing. If you’re a writer stuck in this process, Anne Lamott has some words of wisdom for you. Apart from the themes she used in her writing, her characters also played a vital part in her success. Continue reading the compilation below to know her quotes about the mentioned subject.

Get to know your characters as well as you can let there be something at stake, and then let the chips fall where they may.

Anne Lamott

You are going to love some of your characters because they are you or some facet of you, and you are going to hate some of your characters for the same reason.

Anne Lamott

Just don’t pretend you know more about your characters than they do, because you don’t. Stay open to them. It’s teatime and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It’s that simple.

Anne Lamott

One line of dialogue that rings true reveals character in a way that pages of description can’t.

Anne Lamott

Over and over I feel as if my characters know who they are, and what happens to them, and where they have been and where they will go, and what they are capable of doing, but they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.

Anne Lamott

Plot springs from character… I’ve always sort of believed that these people inside me- these characters- know who they are and what they’re about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don’t type.

Anne Lamott

Any plot you impose on your characters will be onomatopoetic: PLOT. I say don’t worry about plot. Worry about the characters. Let what they say or do reveal who they are, and be involved in their lives, and keep asking yourself, Now what happens? The development of relationship creates plot.

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott writes about subjects that most people can relate to in their life. Once paired with her trademark humor, the themes go light-hearted and easy for readers to digest. Moreover, her ruthless honesty and compassion work well with her craft, something most readers want to see from their favorite writers. Anne Lamott inspires people through her books that even her quotes on writing become as powerful as her writings.

Do you need more inspiration on writing other than these quotes of Anne Lamott? Check out our collection of quotes on writing from other authors here.

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!