Wise words from Anne Lamott

A writer and activist who has hewn wisdom and compassion from the rocky path of her life, Anne Lamott is one of a kind. Heidi Scrimgeour meets her in London


Wise words from Anne Lamott

Facebook seems an unlikely place to encounter words that leave a lasting impression on your life, but that’s where I first found the New York Times-bestselling writer Anne Lamott. A recovering alcoholic and former drug addict – she has been clean and sober for 28 years – Anne is the author of seven novels, and this month, a new collection of her essays is published in the UK.

Now 60, Anne lives in California where she flouts convention online, as in real life, by sharing heartfelt essay-style posts which are deeply refreshing in a virtual world of same-y status updates. Anne’s name is not widely known in the UK, despite having 85,000 followers on Twitter and more than a quarter of a million fans on Facebook, but those who are familiar with her work often respond to the very mention of her name with reverence.

We asked her to share her wisdom with Psychologies

How can we connect with our spirituality?

By getting in touch with our own human spirit; the part that is touched by suffering throughout the world. Most people were neglected, shamed or disciplined as children in ways that stifled their creative soul and their spiritual truth. All you have to do to get back in touch with that is to want to. Start little by little; with hikes and walks, art and music.

How should we deal with judgement of others and ourselves? 

In my case, it took a lot of therapy to recover from perfectionism. And as you get older, you realise everything precious that gave you a sense of wonder and laughter came from messes and mistakes, and from people helping you get back up. I’ve lost so many people way too young that you start to realise the sword of Damocles really is hanging over your head, and if you’re going to live this one precious life you have, then you sure as hell better get started on it.

How can we find purpose?

Sometimes purpose is enduring situations that we hope not to be in forever, in order to get to somewhere more creative or that might pay out more in terms of laughter, friendships or sense of accomplishment. If you don’t know what your purpose is, tell someone. Or write a note to God and say, ‘I am adrift. Could you get back to me?’ Then try to keep your sticky fingers off the controls of your life, and set your intentions – to have peace of mind, keep your sense of humour, get some exercise, and eat less sugar!

Wise words from Anne Lamott

  • ‘Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. It will keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back.’
  • ‘Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.’
  • ‘Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person.’
  • ‘It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight-training for life.’
  • ‘The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.’
  • ‘The road to enlightenment is long and difficult and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.’

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments Of Grace (Riverhead Books, £13) is published in the UK on 11 November

Photograph: Mark Richards/Writer Pictures