Recently, I read Anne Lamott’s book Small Victories. I’ve loved her books since reading Bird by Bird in college. Bird by Bird gave me the first, tiniest breath of hope that I could allow myself to enjoy writing despite debilitating perfectionist tendencies.
In the book, she talks about “shitty first drafts” and how you have to allow yourself to write a first draft so bad you’re afraid you’ll die in the night and someone will discover it. She describes her own neurotic process and how she learned to give herself permission to begin. For someone who believed my first draft should be my final draft, reading her words was the first crack in my wounded worldview – it allowed the first beams of light to filter in.
I have had to learn this lesson many times since, which is a painful irony for someone who tries to be perfect at beating perfectionism. Each time I learn, I think, “I’ve got it, now. I’ll never make a mistake again.” Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, that’s not how it works: there are always more mistakes and more lessons.
Small Victories arrived on my book pile just when I needed it. I stopped by the library without a plan, and I walked where I felt led. I turned a corner, looked down, and there was a cheery blue cover, printed with a name that, to me, symbolizes hope and humor.
This little collection of essays was filled with stories of this vibrant and talented woman slipping into fear and doubt and blame, only to be redeemed by grace. She dips into fearful, wounded ways of thinking, but she always finds her way back to love and connection. And not by following a booming voice from the heavens, but by noticing small moments of kindness, resilience, or beauty.
It’s hard for me to rest in a sense of faith – moments of joy often trigger fear. I’m learning to breathe through this, but it’s a struggle. I’m learning that’s ok, too.