Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dear Anne Lamott (or finding my own way)

(Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors - my favorite book she's written is called Traveling Mercies)

Dear Anne Lamott,

The way you write inspires me. It touches that part of me that wants to be a better story teller, one that paints with words, using all the colors in a box of 64 Crayons or even better, all the shades of the sunset.

The other day I sat in front of my computer for thirty minutes. My mind, blank. White like the screen. My toe tapped underneath the table, mimicking the flashing beat of the cursor. How can I write like you? I cannot.

It would be like trying to grow the exact same rose bushes as my mother did in her garden. Beautiful yellow roses in a small Texas town. Every year she would stand by those bushes and look at them carefully, tilting her head. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me she was deciding which stems to clip in order to make a bouquet for the Culberson County fair. She said making that choice was crucial. Every rose was different. My mother won first prize for years until she quit competing. No need to win anymore, she said.

Even if I knew the exact seeds she planted, the exact treatments of the soil she used and even the exact moments she pruned those bushes, I could never duplicate those wild yellow roses that glistened in the Texas sun on Summer Street.

And as I sat in front of a white screen once again I knew I couldn’t replicate another woman’s talent. Your voice, Anne, reminds me of those roses. Thorns are hidden underneath beauty in every story you write. I cannot grow a rose garden as I write.

I cannot.

But what I can do is plant an orchard. Tall trees that seem to reach out to God and offer Him a juicy apple or a sweet pear. My words, my stories, begin as saplings of ideas. It takes time to nurture those saplings but I love the process. The buds of creative thought pop up as I throw in devices of style. As the fruit makes it appearance, tiny and green, I am spurred to continue editing, to continue watching each story become its own.

However, in the ripening process frost happens. Pages are deleted. Words are uttered under my breath. Phrases like “I will never write again,” and “Maybe I will become an Amway salesperson.”

Sometimes a tree survives and its fruit is spectacular. All the time nourishing my writing grows into a moment of nourishment for someone else. What a spectacular feat. A little miracle of creativity and perseverance.

Anne, I’ll never write like you. I’ll never grow roses like my mom. But I will be the best tree farmer I can be. Sprawling orchards of green with the color of apples and pears peeking through the branches.



Cheryl Barker said...

Robbie, you're right -- as writers, we each have our own unique voices. If we stay busy trying to sound like others, someone misses the chance to be blessed by our OUR voices. We need to fill our own unique roles, don't we?

By the way, I enjoy reading Anne Lamott, too :)

Robbie Iobst said...

Thank you Cheryl! And absolutely we need to fill our own unique roles. I just finished a writing class on "Finding your Voice" and it taught me a)To trust myself b)To make purposeful conscious choices that will develop my voice and style and c)it is wise to "steal" style/voice ideas from other authors but not try to become them.

Red Bridges Home said...

Robbie - this is great and you are so right. It reminds me of a retreat my church did years ago, "God made you and original, don't die a copy." -- so often we try and mimic those who inspire us and we forget that God gave us OUR voices for a reason. I love how you write. You have a beautiful voice, keep writing.

Robbie Iobst said...

Deana, I love this: "God made you an original - Don't die a copy." Absolutely! I just read your blog and WOWWW!! You've been through it. I'm so glad you got good news! So fun to be your cyber-space sister/friend! :0)

denise said...

Someday, Anne Lamott will say,"I wish I could write like Robbie Iobst." WEll, okay, maybe Anne Lamott won't say it, but a bunch of other writers will. :D

Robbie Iobst said...

Denise, thank you! You funny. :0)