Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Bird by bird, buddy

Well, it hasn't been the most productive week in the history of this project; it might be more accurate to say that it has probably been the least productive yet, in fact. The computer was only switched on once or twice and the brain less often than that.

Life kind of took over. Started with a poorly daughter and ended up with widespread poorliness and lethargy and everything put on hold.

The bright point of the week was reading Anne Lamott's wonderful book 'Bird By Bird'.

I realised that my 'protractor' idea of breaking down a huge writing project into tiny chunks to try to get your head around it was not at all original - it was her idea a long time ago.

This isn't one of those moments where I thought I'd had an original thought and then found out with crushing disappointment that it's nothing new (I've had quite a few of those); no, this is a rare and precious time when the fact that I've stumbled on a path well-trodden is a huge, whopping relief.

Listen to this:
"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. [It] 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 unopened books on birds, immobilised 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." 

As I said in the last post, I've been feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by the vast scale of the project and that sense of inadequacy, combined with being an ailing member of The House of Poorliness this last week has made me feel like giving up. Ms Lamott's 'Bird by Bird' has restored my faith in my story, and I will try to put on the blinkers that prevent me from looking at the whole thing, just concentrating on one small job at a time. One brick. One degree.

One bird.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, 1994 Anchor Books, New York.
Chapter Two, page 18-19.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Oh what a relief - and what great advice Helen. Bird by bird. I'll remember that x

    1. Thanks, Mandy. It is great advice; and very welcome at the moment.
      (BTW I removed a duplicate comment from above.)