Part Four Summary : Publication and Other Reasons to Write
Summary of “Writing a Present”
Publication is not going to change your life. Writing will. Twice Lamott has given her writing as presents to people who were dying. She made stories of love and survival out of tragedy.
Commentary on “Writing a Present”
Lamott tells how she spent time with friends who had a dying baby. She stayed open to the event and took notes. She made the experience into a radio show, including the script of the show in this chapter. It brought everyone closer and was part of the healing experience.
Summary of “Finding Your Own Voice”
Lamott often asks students to write down the reasons they want to write. One important reason is to find their own truths. We need to open the doors and let our skeletons out of the closet. The truth of our experience can only come out in our own voices. This saves us.
Commentary on “Finding Your Own Voice”
What starts as anger or grief can be redeemed through writing about it as a witness in our own voices. Secrecyand suppression are the worst enemies.
Summary of “Giving”
Lamott quotes Annie Dillard as saying every day one must give one's work the best instead of saving it until later. A writer has to give from the deepest part of his or herself. Lamott wants to give people a feeling of connection in her writing. Great writers give their readers a lasting gift. Write back to them.
Commentary on “Giving”
Lamott concludes “There is no cosmic importance to your getting published, but there is in learning to be a giver” (p. 203). Writing takes sophistication and innocence and the desire to give.
Summary of “Publication”
Lamott writes about the “myth of publication” (p. 208). The whole process of publication is like a little nervous breakdown. She details the paranoia and negative emotions generated with sending a manuscript. Whether accepted or rejected, the emotions are on a merry-go-round. A new author thinks self-esteem will go up, but then the critics and public have their say, or their ignoring of your book. Even if you do well with a first book, you have to prove yourself all over again each time. Publishing is stressful but rewarding as well. It is an accomplishment one carries with one.
Commentary on “Publication”
Lamott details both the down and up sides of publishing. In the end, however, she notes that it does nothing for self-esteem: “Being enough was going to have to be an inside job” (p. 220). She means that there can never be enough external money or fame to make one feel good about oneself. After one gets “stoned on all the attention” (p. 220), the author realizes that inner peace is a matter of the heart, and the world has nothing to do with that.