My Brain On Crack,  Write Like You Mean It

Dear Anne LaMott

DISCLOSURE: I suspect I, uh, stole the idea for writing a letter to Anne LaMott from Andy Raskin. Oh, you don’t know Andy Raskin? I didn’t either until about a week ago when his book The Ramen King and I went home with me from the library. I suppose I would have known him if I still listened to NPR — where, apparently, Andy Raskin talks about things — but I haven’t listened to NPR since at least 2005, and in fact the listening to NPR, especially Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion (though I saw the movie — was that cheating?) was ceded to the Other Side in my divorce settlement, much like those old Body Shop stock accounts that probably are still worth only pennies on the dollar.

[A further note on Andy Raskin: Andy, if I may address you directly and at this point I don’t see why I shouldn’t considering everything you have meant to me this past week, I have to report that I sort of hated you through about the first half of your book. You were kind of a jerk! But then you got all vulnerable and I started thinking Maybe he’s on to something here, and I especially liked the technique of letting that horrible inner voice do the talking for awhile so you could really hear it and from where it comes, and then I started thinking that despite your unfortunate inside back cover photograph — the one that makes you look alarmingly identical to the Party of The Other Side in the aforementioned divorce — I’d almost sort of want to meet you. (Not in a creepy way or a stalking way, I promise, but more like in a I think I get you and you seem like a cool guy kind of way.) At least, if it weren’t for the fact that semi-famous people are almost always a disappointment in person, I mean, cough, so I’ve heard. (Not you, of course.) You understand. No offense. Your book rocked, really.]

Dear Anne LaMott,

A few years ago someone commented on the blog I was keeping at the time. You sound just like Anne LaMott! Through the osmosis of such things I knew that Anne LaMott was an author who wrote books. Score! I Googled you. Oh, bummer. I saw references to “God” and “Jesus.” Since I am a person who frequently and liberally sprinkles words like “reincarnation” and “chakra” and “aura” in her conversations, I figured we couldn’t have much to say to one another despite what my well-intentioned commenter thought.

That’s where I was wrong. I adore being wrong.

Last week one of your books jumped off the library shelf into my hands. Well, we say that, books jumping off shelves, but in reality it’s unlikely, I mean seriously, show me the legs that cause all this jumping. How about, the book took my notice? Became magically brighter while everything else fell away? Sure, okay. I was in the Biography section, where, apparently, the lovely librarians in my library have seen fit to stash your books, or some of them. I don’t know, I’m not an expert in library science (but I love that it’s a Science, I mean, Books and Science are two things one doesn’t expect to be combined, you know?), and I don’t even know if there are other books of yours in other locations. I just know I saw A N N E  L A M O T T along the top shelf and something made me stop. Anne Lamott. Well, fine. I guess it’s time to see what ol’ Anne Lamott is like for reals. So I chose a book after scanning the three or four titles that were there. Plan B. Sounds good, I could use a Plan B myself. So I took it home.

I started reading. Interesting. I liked you immediately. I liked how you looked at things. I liked your passion. I liked your cadence, your use of words. The way people use words — which to me are like living, breathing, feeling beings — is important to me. I judge people based on their use (and abuse) of words. Yours were spare. Bare. Frank. Honest. I liked that.

I flipped to the back inner fly leaf. The words tumbled out and the sudden sound of my voice surprised me, “Oh, she’s beautiful!”  Dreadlocks. Hippie-ish jewelry. A warm, slightly self-conscious smile. Someone is taking my photograph and I find that a little ridiculous, your eyes seemed to be saying. A woman growing comfortable with her skin. I liked her very much.

I decided, too, while I read, that we think very much alike. That we’d probably like one another. That we do share a similar writing style. I liked the forthright, tender, compassionate, human woman who emerged from your pages.

Thanks, Anne LaMott, for the gift of you I received through Plan B.

Oh. I can understand your question. What does she want? Well. I wrote to another writer once. I was twelve. His name was Ray Orrock and he was a columnist for a Bay Area newspaper. I adored his writing. His column about driving around the block an extra time just so he could watch the odometer turn from 99999 to 00000 made him seem like just the sort of person I was. At twelve I wasn’t driving, but if I had been that’s just the sort of thing I’d do. So I wrote to him. Poured out my heart. About being misunderstood. About wanting my life to mean something. And you know what? He wrote me back. Took about three months, which in twelve-year-old years is nearly a lifetime of little deaths, but he wrote back. He was kind. He was understanding. He gave advice. Keep your chin up. You’ll be fine. I was embarrassed that I had taken up the time of a 50-year old man and I hid his letter away in a drawer.

So what do I want, Anne LaMott? Writers write to reach people. That’s what they do. It’s why they — we — write. To be heard. To connect. So consider yourself heard and connected. Sure, I don’t know you, but I got a sense from those pages. And writing — reaching, connecting — seemed like a good idea.

Hi, Anne LaMott.