Excerpted from Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott. Reminded by Paul Wallace.
We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in. Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that door shut. But the writer’s job is to see what’s behind it, to see the bleak unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words — not just into any words but if we can, into rhythm and blues.
You can’t do this without discovering your true voice, and you can’t find your true voice and peer behind the door and report honestly and clearly to us if your parents are reading over your shoulder. They are probably the ones who told you not to open the door in the first place. You can tell if they’re there because a small voice will say, 'Oh, whoops, don’t say that, it’s a secret,' or 'That’s a bad word,' or 'Don’t tell anyone to jack off. They’ll all start doing it.' So you have to breathe or pray or do therapy to send them away. Write as if your parents are dead.