Whether you want to be a writer (in whatever capacity that means to you) or not, I highly suggest reading Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It is a good book about writing, but a great book about life. One of my best friends gave it to me in 2011, and it’s funny how different pieces of advice have been applicable at different times since then.
Right now, even though I’m enjoying lovely family time in California, I’m freaking out a little (or maybe a lot) about my creative thesis. The thesis is a novel. I’ve worked my way through more than one draft, but for some reason I feel behind. I know the novel isn’t where I want it to be by the end. And I know it isn’t where I want it to be for my first turn in to my advisor (who just happens to be an editor at Penguin Books … no big deal, right?). Instead of being motivated by this, I wake up feeling frozen – completely stalled by how big the task is and how big the opportunity is. I really, really, really don’t want to blow this. But, if anything, the frozen feeling is what will get in my way. So building off the title story from Anne Lamott’s book, I’ve developed a little mantra: word by word and bird by bird.
Here is the quote from the book that explains both the title of the book and my little saying: 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.”
Wish me luck as I continue working word by word through my novel project. And best of luck with your writing and the projects you care about in your life!