Words to Fly By


The night before last I had the incredible honor of seeing both Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert together at the beautiful Royce Hall at UCLA. I know I know, how could it be?  Needless to say, the evening was pure magic.

Since almost every single word out of each of their mouths felt meaningful and moving, I wasn’t sure I could even write about it. Almost like a you had to be there kind of night. But I will say that in one short evening, these two incredibly authentic and articulate ladies gave a huge room full of women permission to be human—real, fumbling and flawed.

A perfect example was when someone in the audience asked them if they had by chance mastered living in the now. Wow. That’s a question.

Ms. Lamott began with an unapologetic No, which was certainly liberating in itself, but Ms. Gilbert added that she thought the living in the moment movement was somewhat overrated. Oh yes she did. She went on to share something she had recently read that made mention (and I totally paraphrase what she had paraphrased) that perhaps the key to a happy life is when one has good memories to look back on and great plans to look forward to. She ended with a simple line of advice that keeps ringing in my ears—take pictures and make plans.

Is it just me or is that most wonderful thing you’ve ever heard?

I knew these women were amazing even before attending the event but when I floated out of that concert hall with wings I began to see them as divine.


  1. says

    i knew those two phenomenal women were speaking — together! — and would’ve loved to see and hear them. But it’s a long drive from Ohio ;-). I’m glad you got to experience it, and that you are kind enough to share the experience with us.

    peace and love.

  2. Karen says

    Thanks for sharing. That could become a new motto. Love it: take pictures and make plans. When that is happening, I am feeling good about life.

  3. says

    Hi Tracey. The first blog post I read in the morning often sets the tone for my day. I’m so happy I read this first. It’s exactly what I needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you for picking this portion of an amazing evening to share with us.

    Partly because of blogging and mostly because of Shutter Sisters, I now try to take pictures daily. My humble, reliable point-and-shoot Canon is always in my purse or backpack. Photographing what I love is changing the way I see things. And I hope changing the way I live…slower, deeper, with more gratitude for simple gifts, more consideration for the environment.

    Yes, that statement you quoted is quite wonderful. In fact….I’m thinking of changing the focus of one of my journals to simply photos and plans.

    Oh, before I end this long comment — lovely, lovely photo. Warm, soft, sweet.

  4. says

    I think the camera helps one to "stay in the moment." It has given me a gift of slowing down and observing. Thanks for sharing this amazing evening and the wisdom to live by.

  5. says

    hey, I was there, too. had we only known, an exchange of hellos face to face… :)

    and I relayed the same anecdote to my son. guess certain moments just rise to the surface.

  6. says

    I would have LOVED to hear that! I so respect each of those women and what they’ve done with their lives.

    Your post really struck a cord with me, maybe because I just wrote today about a living-in-the-moment moment on my blog. One of those crystal clear, highly focused, all absorbing "insignificant" moments.Maybe the whole living in the moment thing is over rated, but it seems like those really intense in-the-moment times creep up on me when I least expect it. Maybe that’s why I enjoy photography so much. It freezes those moments.

    But the take pictures and make plans? Wow. Very moving and sensible words to live by.Thanks for sharing your impressions of the evening.

  7. says

    wow. take pictures and make plans. that’s about the best thing i could hear today! what a lucky evening to be in the presence of both of those women. i am about to finish Eat Pray Love and i’m sad that it’s over! thank you for posting this today, it’s timely for me.

  8. leah says

    What a wonderful goal for me. For a while now, I’ve been feeling so torn about the "living in the moment"; I’m the consummate picture-taker in my family, always capturing all that I can on "film". But sometimes I would get home and begin questioning if I was "there".

    Take pictures and make plans is absolutely something that I can do. . . and feel good about myself in the end.

  9. says

    she said TAKE PICTURES???? where do i write to invite her to be an honorary shutter sister??? where is she speaking next so i can convince her to join our tribe?

  10. says

    beautiful advice! i think, if we are very, very lucky, and maybe once in a blue moon, we are able to merge the two ways of living. a good life – in those precious moments- would be where "one has good memories to look back on and great plans to look forward to" and staying present while making them… loving every minute.

    or something like that.

    thank you! this will continue to make me smile all day long.

  11. says

    I would SO agree with that sentiment! I read a blog called The Happiness Project (http://www.happiness-project.com), by author Gretchen Rubin who has spent at least two years so far researching how to be happy. One of her rules is "be a repository of happy memories." (Take photos!) Several other "rules" imply that having plans to look forward to would also be a source of happiness. (Make plans!)

  12. says

    In fact, here’s where she develops the "Third Splendid Truth": http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2007/08/a-key-to-happ-2.html

    [T]here are four stages for enjoying a happy event:
    — anticipation (looking forward to it)
    — savoring (enjoying it in the moment – remember to turn off your cell phone!)
    — expression (sharing your pleasure with others, to heighten your experience)
    — reflection (looking back on happy times – so take pictures)

  13. says

    My goodness, Tracey, I just got goosebumps. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am going to print out that last line and put it on my refrigerator right now :)

  14. says

    I love these two writers. I had the great good fortune while I was teaching at the University of Tennessee to meet and have dinner (can you believe my luck..) with Elizabeth Gilbert and she’s as fabulous and gracious one-on-one as she is as a speaker. She was a writer in residence with the creative writing department on campus — I teach journalism courses and I was thrilled to be able to invite her to speak on literary journalism to some of our students and then to take her to dinner as thanks. I understand your "floating on air" feeling. That’s how I felt after our dinner. She had recently returned from the trip she wrote about in Eat, Pray, Love and peace was evident on her face. Thanks for the post, reminding me of that night — and how it inspired me then. The memory inspires me now.

  15. says

    omg, tracey! i’m SO jealous. Those are my two favorite writers…and both in the same place! You are so lucky! And I LOVE what she said! They both have a way of making you feel okay, warts and all. I love how real they are…oh i could go on and on and on. thank you for this.

  16. Jen says

    I also had the incredible experience of seeing Ms. Lamott and Ms. Gilbert on Friday night- it was indeed a wonderful evening. I’m happy to hear it inspired many others besides just me. I am Ms. Lamott’s biggest admirer- though I did think it was an odd match of personalities with Ms. Gilbert- almost as though Ms. Gilbert acted subservient or submissive to Ms. Lamott, perhaps due to age or literary experience…but still an incredible evening!

    I love the "Make plans and take pictures" motto!

  17. says

    Wow. The story is fantastic and it makes me feel a bit better. I try to live in the moment but I’m always wishing for the past and dreaming about the future.

    The photo is fantastic. The tone is a summer’s evening, relishing the day.

  18. says

    ok, i sort of hate you a little. i can’t believe you saw them together. what’s really awesome about them both to me, is not that they are divine, but that they can articulate how we all are. divinely imperfect in a sense. thank you so much for sharing.

  19. says

    I’m sure it was startling. But no one has to master living in the now. It is impossible for any of us to live anywhere else. Perhaps she meant she hasn’t mastered "being satisfied with the now." That IS a taller order, and it is absolutely why we make so many plans.

  20. says

    Wow!!! You got to see Anne Lamott AND Elizabeth Gilbert. You lucky dog!!!!! What an inspiring space to be in.

    Thanks for your recap. I am in awe 😉

  21. says

    Funny enough I can feel my soul start to draw up as if in need of nourishment (it’s almost a physical sensation) and it takes me awhile to figure out I have nothing on the calendar that I’m jazzed about. I knew I was onto something!!

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