Misanthropic Quote: Anne Lamott on Paranoia

Almost all [of my writing students] have been writing for at least a little while, some of them all their lives. Many of them have been told over the years that they are quite good, and they want to know why they feel so crazy when they sit down to work, why they have these wonderful ideas and then they sit down and write one sentence and see with horror that it is a bad one, and then every major form of mental illness from which they suffer surfaces, leaping out of the water like trout — the delusions, hypochondria, the grandiosity, the self-loathing, the inability to track one thought to completion, even the hand-washing fixation. And especially, the paranoia.

You can be defeated and disoriented by all these feelings, I tell them, or you can see the paranoia, for instance, as wonderful material. Surely one of your characters is riddled with it …

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, pp 10 – 11

8 thoughts on “Misanthropic Quote: Anne Lamott on Paranoia

    1. Ha! You are right, of course. I use the word “misanthropic” loosely with these quotes. It can include anything from satire to pointing out unpleasant truths about the world and human nature. Distinguishes them from “inspirational” quotes.

      Although I admit that inspirational quotes and misanthropic quotes can sometimes be the same thing. Sometimes having someone admit something unpleasant in a pithy way can be affirming. Especially when it pertains to the writing process. Especially if we thought we were the only one.

      For contrast, if I ever share one of these incisive Anne Lamott quotes, where she’s joking about her own or her students’ mental illness, with my non-writer husband, he gets worried. So I call them “misanthropic” for folks like him, as if to say, “I realize this is a bit dark. Don’t panic.”

      I first read Bird by Bird in my 20s and thought it was way too dark. Now, 20 years later, I think it’s brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Although I admit that inspirational quotes and misanthropic quotes can sometimes be the same thing. Sometimes having someone admit something unpleasant in a pithy way can be affirming. Especially when it pertains to the writing process. Especially if we thought we were the only one.” So true!

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeh, sometimes.

      For example, I got this reply from an agent,
      “Thank you for your query. Unfortunately, this is not quite the right fit for me.”

      That’s what she wrote. Of course, I understood that what she was really saying was,
      “I’m too polite to say so, but your pages are boring and show that you know nothing about life. Also, I don’t think you have any right to write about the Land Bridge, which leads me to conclude that you are a horrible person.”

      I mean, I’m only, like, 95% sure … 🙂

      Like

      1. Jen, Your paranoia is working overtime. I would suspect that your book did not fit a genre that the agent handled. When I read the first chapter one of my thoughts was what genre is this? Where on the book selves does it go?
        Tom

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha ha, yes. If we are not paranoid before beginning the query process, we certainly are during.

        I don’t query agents that don’t represent my genre(s). I only query if something in their “looking for” list makes me think they might be interested in my type of stuff. Which, admittedly, is hard to classify.

        Many people say they like “genre-bending” novels, but that term means different things to different people.

        I was going to tell you my exact genres and what series my book would (will!) go on the shelf next to … but I want to hear what you think about it. Maybe it will open my mind to new possibilities.

        Like

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