I love this quote. It is one of my favorites to share in a workshop. I read it today with an epic-cool group of teachers at Southbury School. (I learned epic-cool from a Southbury first grader.) Little did I know I needed to hear it today.
I started the day thinking: I am such a mess. I don’t mean this in a bad way or a negative way or a life-is-hard way. It’s simply the truth of the matter. I like to think it’s a beautiful mess. I think this is a sign of a life well lived.
In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes:
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.
Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness…Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us 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, find 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.
Your day’s work might turn out to have been a mess. So what? Vonnegut said, “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” So go ahead and make big scrawls and mistakes. Use up lots of paper. Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forget to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re suppose to be writing.
I’d love to know what these words are saying to you. Happy writing and messy living.