Shitty First Draft

When I was in school, someone gave my mother a copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which she then gave to me, and which I took as gospel.

The advice Lamott gives on writing, and on life, is brilliant, and if you know me, you’ve probably heard me mutter the phrase, “Bird by bird,” at some point.  When pressed on what that means, I’ll explain, as Lamott does, that even the most seemingly insurmountable task must be taken one step at a time.  I can do little justice to Lamott’s stories.  But the essence of the title tale is that her brother puts off a huge assignment until the morning the assignment is due, and then must write a veritable North American ornithological guide and submit it for class.  In the midst of her brother’s misery, her father offers this sage advice on how to complete the task: Bird by bird, buddy, just take it bird by bird.

How does one complete a marathon?  Bird by bird.

How does one survive a malingering separation and a painful divorce?  Just take it bird by bird.

Indeed, taking life bird by bird seems the answer to most of the difficult questions I have been presented.


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  1. A wise Sister recommended that I buy this book four years (and two thousand miles) ago when I had lost myself. It was exactly what I needed at the time. Thank you for that, and for the much needed reminder today.

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