I’ve been actually scared of writing, fearful of my manuscript, avoiding it at all costs. Some days it’s hard for me to understand how this could have happened: that I have learned to fear that which I once loved.
But deep inside, I know that I still love writing. It is all the other things that have added fear into the mix: deadlines, critique, even– in some ways– being paid for it.
Again and again, I have had to return to the advice of writing guru Anne Lamott: bird by bird, short assignments, shitty first drafts.
Bird by Bird
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which 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 about 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.”
“Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we’re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry. That is all we are going to do for now. We are just going to take this bird by bird. But we are going to finish this one short assignment.”
Shitty First Drafts
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.”
And with that said– or remembered– I’m off to work on my novel. Think of me.
P.S. If you haven’t read Bird by Bird, man, are you missing out: get it here.