Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott: 12 things I know for sure


Today I’d like to share this wonderful talk from Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird and several other books on writing and life.

I especially like the point she makes about not comparing yourself to other people. What she is saying is that we are all a bit messed up and vulnerable but we keep this a secret from the rest of the world as much as we can. When we compare ourselves with others we are only seeing their public selves and not their real and often messy selves. If we could inside people we would understand that we are all flawed and therefore vulnerable.

There are also some funny comments about food. In a sentence she captures the notion that we can look after ourselves better than we do.



A little bit of love goes a long way

Sending positive emails to people you care about is amazingly effective. I’m really enjoying the experience and I’m happy to report that not only is it easy, I’ve actually started looking forward to that part of the day.

The emails have to be genuine but they don’t have to be long. So far I’ve emailed a friend that I’d lost contact with (great result), I’ve emailed a work colleague I like and respect to let her know that she’ll be missed when she goes off to start a new role next week. She was so chuffed! I couldn’t believe how such a small gesture meant so much.

I’ve also sent a couple of emails to relatives. Nothing heavy, just a few words to say that I appreciate them. I’ve noticed that it’s also making me feel closer to all the people I care about and much more connected. It’s as though the activity is having positive flow-on effects to all my relationships and making me feel less worried about being vulnerable.

You should try it and see what happens and maybe let me know. I’d be really interested to hear if it works for you.

A little dose of happiness

I was going to call this post “I’ve been bad” but I thought that sounded slightly flirtatious and a little bit coquettish and I certainly wasn’t after that effect. What I really wanted to say is that lately I’ve been breaking some of my own rules, especially at work, and I’m not proud of that.

I’ve been doing all the things I disapprove of including being negative about the organisation I work for and being negative about the future and my place in the world. I was feeling a bit unloved and unappreciated and this manifested by doing things like joining in with the gossipers and sometimes even adding some of my own gossip. It’s not really my style and I’m a bit ashamed of my behaviour, but it’s time to move on!

But today I’ve been thinking about agency. By that I mean the way we think about ourselves and the impact that we have on other people. I know in my heart that I’m influential. We’re all influential. We can make someone’s day with a kind word, and equally we can make people feel terrible with a thoughtless remark. It’s remarkably easy to affect other people.

Recently I’ve been listening to a podcast called The Good Life Project. The episode I listened to today featured Michelle Gielan, a CBS anchor turned positive psychologist researcher. She has some great suggestions about creating a fuller, richer and more positive life.

One idea I particularly like is to start your day by sending a positive email to someone you know. It doesn’t have to be long, in fact short is better otherwise it takes too long and gets to be a chore.

I’m going to start tomorrow and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ordinary things

As I write, the neighbours are sitting on their verandah eating dinner together. Mum and dad and two kids. I guess it’s a bit unusual in this day and age to see such a stereotypical nuclear family, but nevertheless it’s lovely to hear them as they sit in the autumn air laughing and chatting together while they eat. It’s not perfect, the kids bicker and try to wrestle one another in an effort to avoid eating their vegies. Dad has to lay down the law about finishing their dinner before they are allowed to leave the table.

I find it really comforting in a way I can’t describe, yet here I am trying to describe what’s around me. Things that are ordinary but nice.

A few days ago I commented on the post of a fellow blogger who was concerned that she was writing about ordinary things. No great dramas in her life, just the day to day observations that go with raising a family. I told her that she shouldn’t worry about being ordinary. That what was ordinary to her could quite well be interesting and meaningful to others.

I meant what I said, but I have to admit that I avoid writing because I’m scared that people will find it ordinary or just plain boring. I also avoid writing from the heart because to reveal one’s inner secret’s and vulnerabilities is very scary, even though I know it’s also what makes us human. I love reading posts where people reveal a little of themselves and the way they see the world. I love the sense of connection that comes from recognising that other people have the same fears and interests as me.

So at this Easter time, here’s to you fellow bloggers. You inspire me. Please keep writing and sharing your ideas. You never know when you might strike a chord or touch a heart.

It’s never too late


I love the sentiments in this article about finding new and exciting things to do at any stage in your life. I know quite a few people who seem to think that getting older means giving up. I don’t feel like that at all. I’m moving towards the time when I’ll retire from fulltime paid employment, but I have no intention of retiring from life. If anything, I’m planning to do all of the things that I don’t currently have the time or energy to do.

It’s never too late to re-invent yourself

Life is often about finding and re-finding ourselves. As we change over the years our perception of who we are also changes. While we might think that having grey hair means that we should stop trying to re-invent ourselves, I don’t agree. I suspect that it might be harder because there are so many strong stereotypes around older women, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. One of the joys of getting older is that you care less about what other people think, which is very helpful.

Your new found freedom is a gift

If your children have flown the coop, you might be in the position of having a little more time on your hands. If there is something you want to do, what’s stopping you? This could be the perfect time to take on a new challenge whatever stage of life you are at. The trick is to focus on what makes you feel happy, ignore other people, and go for it.

He said to honor ourselves

Last year I did a podcasting course with Valorie and was surprised to see her name pop up when I was reading some book reviews on Goodreads. She’s a lovely writer so I thought I’d share this post. I was also interested learn that we have similar backgrounds, having both worked in instructional design and in the photographic industry.

Books Can Save A Life

taughfalls Somewhere near Lake of the Coheeries, a place that can have cruel winters but is nevertheless enchanting. (Photo by A. Hallinan)

New Year’s weekend I retrieved from the closet the boxes of letters I’d saved from my younger days, back when people took up pen and paper to communicate. I thought it was about time to sort, organize, and purge.

I’m not sure why I saved these missives, but I’m glad I did, especially now that I write memoir. Picking up an old letter and hearing the voice of a friend from long ago can take me back in an instant and call up a stream of long-lost memories. After decades, I can still recognize a friend’s distinctive handwriting before I even begin to read the letter.

You may be familiar with the mega bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by

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Back in the land of the living

Here I am, back in the land of the living, or more accurately back in blogging land. I’ve been reading a few posts about how to revive a much neglected blog (like this one) and how to get back to doing what you really love doing but for some reason have stopped doing!

The most helpful advice was to stop being precious about what you write. Just write something, anything to get you back in the groove and back into the habit of writing and posting.

Taking that first tiny step is hard though. Every time I thought about writing a post I thought about whether it would be useful, interesting, or even just plain coherent. In desperation I’ve taken the somewhat radical and counter-intuitive step of disconnecting this blog with all of my other social media platforms (i.e. FaceBook, Twitter etc) in the hope that a degree of anonymity will give me the freedom to say what I really want to say. I want to quieten down the inner editor, the little voice that insists that every word is rubbish.

If you’ve subscribed to this blog in good faith, then quite possibly you are a lovely person who shares my view that being creative is hard but kind of unavoidable. I really do believe that there’s a creative person hiding inside everyone, just waiting for the chance to express themselves. My particular passion is writing, but for you it might be art, music or painting. Or cooking, or needlework, or anything really!

There’s never been a great rush of comments in response to any of my posts, but my teaching experience tells me that sometimes you can touch people’s lives in ways that are subtle and unpredictable. I’ve been privileged to teach many adults over the years and on a couple of occasions I’ve met people later in life who’ve told me that something I said when I was teaching a class had really influenced their lives or the way they thought about the world. It’s a good feeling but also a warning to be very careful what you say to people, especially if they’ve had a tough life.

So here I am. Where are you? Chime in with a comment or just let me know about your struggles. It would be good to share experiences.