Anne Lamott Short Essay

When I'm staring at a massive pile of urgent to-do items, I'll take a breath, literally say "bird by bird" out loud, and zero in on one piece of the puzzle.Even if it's something as small as checking my email.

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That tweet from Kathryn Schulz set off my quest to find Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. But more to the point perhaps is the advice of Philip Roth, who said every writer needs “the ability to sit still in the deeply uneventful business,” a comment that Lamott echoes. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day.

If you’ve ever wondered how I find things, this is a perfect example. Lamott’s advice is down to earth, real, and void of any pretentiousness. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively.

In order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. Think of those times when you’ve read prose or poetry that is presented in such a way that you have a fleeting sense of being startled by beauty or insight, by a glimpse into someone’s soul. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness.

All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least to have some meaning for a moment. The basic formula for drama is setup, buildup, payoff—just like a joke. The buildup is where you put in all the moves, the forward motion, where you get all the meat off the turkey.

In those moments when everything seems too large to comprehend, thinking about her "bird by bird" advice serves as an anchor for me.

I tell myself, "bird by bird" and soon, everything is not quite as scary as it once seemed.

Do you see yourself living in a house in five years? Bird by Anne Lamott, , Amazon When I moved to New York City after living in Austin for my entire life. And of course, there were steps within those steps.

I had grown up with an insatiable thirst for the city, but actually making the move had always seemed like a pipe dream. When I broke it down — bird by bird — it was clear to me that New York was the first step in the journey. Finding an apartment got broken down into researching neighborhoods, looking through Craigslist, emailing potential roommates. Of course, this all involves tremendous privilege on my part.

She writes: "Thirty years ago my older brother, who was 10 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.


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