Friday, September 27, 2013

On hospitality and writing

I just finished reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott and I wish I had read it years and years ago, so I could have already read it ten times at least by now. I wish I had my own paperback copy so that I could mark up the whole thing and draw big boxes around my favorite sections and dog-ear about half the pages. So many words in the book screamed out at me, words about how to write, and why, that have given me a whole new passion for and confidence in putting down these little words of mine. This sentence in particular, though, somehow touched at the core of who I am and why I write:
"It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person people come to for food and drink and company. This is what the writer has to offer."
Yes, hospitality. Hospitality is what the writer has to offer, and it is what I as a human being have to offer, need to offer, too. I have been holding the word in my heart for years and years now, trying to make sense of why it keeps calling out to me like a Siren, of why I seem to find it hidden in every corner of my life, and of what it means for me to live it.

That word, hospitality, it feels like home to me somehow, is home to me somehow. It is the essence of what makes our place, our place. It's the commotion of a tiny space filled weekly with friends old and new, of meals shared over a table spread wide with makeshift leaves, of kids and toys scattered across the floor below, and everybody knowing where the cups are. It is in the friends who know just to knock and enter, any time of day, and in the comfort of those who stop by to pour their hearts out over a quick lunch. It is in saying, "make yourself at home" and "you're welcome any time" and meaning every word. It is in the way neighbors can turn into friends and roommates can turn into family. It is in being a place where people can come with empty hands, empty hearts, curl up on the couch, and be themselves. And somewhere along the way I have found my soul was made for this, for being home base to those that need one, this year, this month, this hour.

Our place via
What Anne Lamott is telling me is that this is true for my writer heart, too, which has been calling out to me long, long before hospitality ever entered my consciousness, with the words, "Record, record, record." It turns out this part of me was also made to be home for people, to provide a space in which they can find a little piece of solace or understanding or hope.

I don't think I am there yet with my writing, not really. But I get a hint of it every time someone says "Yes, me too. You have put my thoughts to words." And I am learning that maybe this is why I so long to hear such words, not because of my ego (though surely that is not entirely absent) but because I was made to open up my space, my heart, to others, and to help them feel at home.


  1. I love this idea of writing as hospitality, the way people can find a home, a safe space, a place to rest and find nourishment. I haven't read this book yet but it's on my to-read list now. Looking forward to getting to know you better! Fiona (Story 101)

    1. Thanks Fiona! You will love it. Can't wait to read more from you as well!