Bird Song

In Anne Lamott’s book on writing and life, Bird by Bird, there is the retelling of a story about her brother who had procrastinated doing a huge assignment. On the night before it was due, he sat surrounded by a pile of books, notepads and pencils. Discouraged, worried, and perplexed about how to begin, the boy’s father gave the advice: ” Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.”

Novice writers such as myself are given the same advice by almost all published writers: set up a schedule and stick to it, write every day even if only 300 words, start with short assignments, write that first shitty draft, let others read your work, and be an observer who takes notes. We get tips on plot, point of view, dialog, and character development. It is pretty standard stuff.

Many times I don’t take the time-honored advice of writing every day. In fact, I may not write every week. I have plenty to say but most of it is not profound, witty, honest, or interesting. Even though it would be considered that “short assignment” and that “shitty first draft” (Lamott’s words), I feel that it just isn’t worth the effort of writing something if it is not good.  This is the equivalent of a beginning violin student saying “I’m not going to practice since I suck at playing the violin.”

Even when I do write a short assignment for the blog, I am terrible at doing many drafts. I write something, read it for clarity and obvious mistakes, and think it is ready to post. Part of this is inherent laziness and wanting to get the assignment done (so I can go have lunch) and part is not looking critically at what I have written. Mostly, I am the only person who reads the post before I publish it. It’s difficult for me to see the flaws in my own life, much less in something I write.

Of course, writing is a lonely pursuit.  Right now I am sitting at my computer and already I have turned off the fan, picked at my fingernail polish, gazed at the gray sky about a million times, watched the sea gulls, and looked at the people on the sidewalk. The sky gazing could be considered part of the writing process since this is “thinking and inspiration.” But it is also the “where am I going with this and what do I hope to say” desperation that comes over me.

Send Inspiration NOW

I am not one who works from an outline. In fact, I rarely know how a piece will end so it is no surprise that I am floundering right now.

I do know that when everything is “turned on” and the starts in the heavens are all aligned, that writing is wonderful, fulfilling, and even thrilling.  For me writing is like playing music is for musicians. I just have to do it. Mostly I don’t care if anyone else reads it. I don’t care about being published. It seems that the blog is just another folder for me to store my writing. It is my therapy, my personal journal and a place to store my written thoughts.  Very self involved, wouldn’t you say?

So here I am coming down to the finish line. Maybe I have knocked off one bird. Maybe I have just maimed the poor thing and should wring its neck to put it out of its misery. It may not be the most beautiful bird in the flock, but at least it has its own song.