Bird by Bird

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The first thing she says to her student on the first day of school is that to write is to tell the truth, to express yourself and perhaps discover who you are. Being a writer gives you an excuse to go out into the world, explore and figure out what life is all about. Lamott explains what good and dedicated writing is, she persuades those who want to be more than a guy working in a small office and doing other people’s work.

“It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one inch picture frame.” This one-inch picture frame takes her back to when her older brother, who was ten at the time, was trying to finish a report on birds that was due the next day but had had over three months to work on. Her brother sat in the kitchen table crying, surrounded by the unopened books, desperately worried about not having enough time to get it done. Her father sat down beside him and said “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Anne Lamott keeps, this one-inch picture frame on her desk to remind herself of a piece of herself, a memory that she’s hold on to for so long. This picture frame helps her relax, helps her concentrate on her writing. It helps her get a grip. Lamott started writing when she was seven or eight and grew up with a writer in the family. She would be at the library every Thursday night to load up on next week’s books. Her first poem was “John Glenn” and had been submitted to a California state school competition and had won an award. Lamott had a great understanding of the characteristics of first drafts; she describes them as always being terrible but necessary because all good writers write them. That terrible first draft becomes a terrific final draft. Some people always strive for perfectionism on first drafts so they won’t have as much to clean up, but under all that pile of terrible first drafts there is the potential of finding something incredible, a new discovery, something you didn’t notice...
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