Friday, January 16, 2009

Bird by Bird

Did you read Anne Lamott's phenomenal writing book, Bird by Bird by any chance? It was the first Lamott book I read, and it led me running to get her spiritual writing. Talk about someone giving you permission to make bad art! Her classic line about writing "shitty first drafts" changed my life, and I'd dare say gave me the courage to take on something as big as writing a novel. I didn't have to write a perfect draft. I just had to write a draft. I thought of it yesterday, when a friend and fellow novelist was having a good old fashion freak-out about the task of wading through extensive edits on her novel. I've been there. In fact, I've been losing my balance, suddenly making all this art (which is very time consuming) and avoiding diving into to my own very crappy rough draft, that needs a complete re-write.

I did about 85 pages, and then went all spacey and visual artsy again. Writing and editing a novel doesn't feel like I'm making art today, and nobody is around to say, "Beautiful. I love it," to urge me on. It just feels like work.

Anyway, I got inspired, aka, found another way to avoid my own edits, and told Ali I would make her an inspirational, somewhat butt kickin' piece (motivating) piece of art to help her remember to do a task at at time. A total rewrite sounds like a nightmare, but she can manage a scene. A novel is a series of scenes. If she can take it scene by scene, she'll look up and it'll be done.

This is the story from Lamott's book:

"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 pencils and unopened books on 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."

I ran out of canvas board, so I made this on the back cover of a hymnal. Love the ragged edges. The birds are pretty scrapbook paper, with number stickers. The flowers are paper and I painted the back ground. The line to the right of the birds says, "Look honey, we are just going to take this bird bird." I need that advice as much as Alison. It's a direct quote from the book, but isn't that a cool way to speak to a friend, or even yourself, when you need a gentle nudge?

Okay, now I really do have to edit a book. If you don't hear from me for a few days (weeks!), that's why.

I'll miss y'all. Pray for me!



Shauna said...

I recommend listening to Anne Lamott read Bird by Bird on audio.

mystele said...

aiiii! this is LOVELY!

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Thank you again, my friend. Can't wait to see it in person. I'm going to edit tonight, and I'm actually eager to do it, thanks to you. Hugs!!!

ragamuffin diva said...

Shauna, that sounds awesome. I heard Anne speak at the Ann Arbor Borders and she was of course, amazing.

Mystele, thank you, thank you, thank you.

ragamuffin diva said...

You are very welcome, Ali. You've supported me through the writing of just about all my novels. It's the least I can do. Seriously

darbyscloset said...

I love the picture and what a sweet friend you are! I also devoured this book when I found it, so nice to think back on ...thanks for the trip!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Sarah said...

I did read that book! And LOVED it. When I read your foreward (or was it at the end?) in Wounded, you mentioned how someone was okay with your (blank) first drafts. I roared because I knew what you were saying! Just served to confirm another reason why I was falling in love with your books.

Also, beautiful piece of artwork! You're inspiring....


ragamuffin diva said...

Nice to hear from you, Darby! And ha! Sarah. I didn't realize I said that *anywhere* in my book, which just goes to show you, I can't be left alone to my own devices for one minute.

So glad you read Wounded. You rawk!

Paula Clare said...

Hi Sistuh!
I LOVED the fact, ALL of Annie Lamott's stuff is phenomenal! I too resonate with her "I ain't about to take myself too seriously" tude...

I didn't know you were blogging again...HOW have I been so out of the loop? I got some catching up to do! Hugs!

ragamuffin diva said...

Yep, I'm back, Paula. Great to hear from you.