As writers and creative, we need all the motivation we can get. Some of you are currently working through the NaNoWriMo. Today, I thought I’d share some from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Bird By Bird
The title of her book comes from an anecdote about her brother writing a school report on birds:
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Bird by Bird is a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue.” all the way from “False Starts” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses “Writers Block,” “Writing Groups,” and “Publication.” Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.
If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.
A Writer Must Be Open To Things Around
I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here? Let’s think of reverence as awe, as presence in and openness to the world.
One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.
Writing Is Not Always Easy
The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given- that you are not in a productive creative period- you free yourself to begin filling up again.
I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.
Some really useful advice
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.
Writers Are Hopeful People
This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.
Let’s Keep Creating Bird By Bird
So when you’re feeling a little low and wondering how you’re going to sustain creating, remember, one day at a time.
Just bought the book. I think it will help me with my students of my creative writing course as well. Thanks for the review
Absolutely loving the phrase bird by bird. It makes so much sense and takes the pressure off. It works so well with my current scenario where I have to submit assignments and I havent even got started. I need to take one assignment at a time. Loved the thoughts on writing too.
Such a lovely thought! Bird by bird…or, for us, word after word. 🙂
I loved her thoughts on writing and on life. True, getting the thoughts down on paper is the first step. Following it to its right end, consists of the successive steps we ought to take if we wish to really write!
That is such an inspiring anecdote. We often don’t get started by worrying about what’s far ahead. Let’s indeed go one step at a time instead. ❤
What a lovely book! I am sure this book would be appreciated by all the writers out there. I loved reading the anecdote about her brother’s writing report. It all boils down to one at a time, right?
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