Getting Started and Short Assignments

This week I’m beginning a new book study on a writing book that I’ve been looking forward to reading. The book is entitled Bird by Bird and it is written by Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird is a collection of writing advice from a national best seller. If you are unfamiliar with Lamott she is known for her raw retellings of actual events in her life. My husband introduced me to some of her other books a few years ago which he found in the Religion section of the library. Bird by Bird has made its way onto many must-read lists for authors. It felt so good this morning to finally open this book. My fingers danced along the crisp edges of the pages as my mind raced with excitement during these first two chapters.

As a writer there are a lot of things about me that others don’t understand. Ann Lamott gets that writers see the world differently. We notice the tiny details and are always on the lookout for inspiration. I’m excited to get to know Ann better and to receive her pearls of wisdom in this book.


Getting Started

Flannery O’Connor once said that anyone who survived childhood has enough writing inspiration for his or her life. The problem is tapping into these memories. Some days we come to the table ready to write, but we have no clue where to start. In this chapter, Ann Lamott advises starting with your own life story and letting that guide your inspiration.

In addition to drawing inspiration, this chapter also addresses motivation for writing.

According to Lamott if you write with the sole goal of getting published you will likely burn out and writing will lose its luster. A true writer puts pen to paper because they want their voice to be heard and they have a story to tell. Whether or not those words make their way to the physical page of a real book should have no bearing on your view of yourself as an author. You write because you love to and not because you want to be rich and famous. (I’ve actually done a little research here and even some of the most successful writers are not rich. Well, almost most of them. I’m pretty sure J.K Rowling is sitting pretty, but she’s an outlier with a million dollar movie deal.)

Find enjoyment in your writing. Even if no one else ever sees a word you write-do it for you!

Short Assignments

This chapter was exactly what I needed this morning. I woke up a little early, brewed an extra strong pot of coffee, and came prepared to start knocking out chapters of my second book. My idea is there. I’ve even created an outline. The problem is…I have no idea where to start.

I can remember when I wrote my first book. It took me days to get off the runway. I sat with a pen and paper and just stared at the idea and outline in front of me. The fear of not knowing how it would end and what sort of subplots may come to be throughout the pages overwhelmed me into paralysis. It wasn’t until I realized that I needed to tackle one small part of that book at a time that I was able to see progress. I didn’t let myself think about the fact that it may take two years to finish, I just focused on page by page, chapter by chapter, and bird by bird.

In this chapter Lamott discusses the namesake for the book Bird by Bird. It is the idea that you shouldn’t focus on the big picture as your work to accomplish a book. Break your project up into many short assignments. With a much smaller goal it is easier to trek along and you see progress every time you write.

Right after I publish this post today I’m opening up a new word document. I am going to start with describing my main character. If that’s all the further I get today I will be happy. Writing a book isn’t about sitting down and getting it finished in one month. It’s a slow process with several small milestones. I’m choosing to focus on those milestones instead of letting myself feel overwhelmed. I’m really excited about my new story. It’s a young adult novel set in a futuristic war torn England.

In summation of these first two chapters of Bird by Bird I leave you with these two thoughts:

  1. Write about what you know.
  2. Focus on one small assignment at a time.

The Ameri Brit Mom


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