Writing Advice from Anne Lamott

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bird by bird by anne lamott

I love this piece by Anne Lamott. She encapsulates the simple challenge of writing and makes it sound effortless.

Of course, it’s not.

Lamott entreats us to ignore all the reasons and excuses and procrastinatory habits stepping in the way of our intention to write.

Unless you make a conscious choice to make writing part of your regular practice, you won’t get it done. Just like tomorrow never comes.

Decide and act. It’s the only way.

“… find a desk or a table where you promise yourself, as a debt of honour, to write one page or passage or for one hour a day. (Well, let’s say five days a week.) You start somewhere, anywhere. It doesn’t matter where, because it will almost certainly go badly. It is supposed to. But maybe you can describe, badly, the place where your book takes place.

Close your eyes and see if there is a movie playing on the black screens behind your eyes. Then scribble down the details of this movie, all the colours and foliage or furnishing.

Maybe you can see one of your character’s faces: how she tucks her head when she enters a room, like a shy duck; or how he takes on the persona of a bank president, arrogant and amused and yet pretending to care, even at meetings with his child’s homeroom teacher.

Maybe you can see his child’s face — the pride she takes in her father’s potency, or the shame.

So describe that to us on paper, in words and images, imperfectly.

That’s all. One small moment, face, locale, conversation at a time …”

It doesn’t have to be a coherent piece. It doesn’t have to be linear construction of a story. It doesn’t have to be your best writing. Just write. Fix it later.

Check in with yourself right now.
– do you set aside a specific time to write?
– do you decide ahead where you will write?
– do you give yourself at least a half-hour a day to write?
– do you have an idea or a prompt to kick you into writing?
– do you really want to write or just dream about it?

No-one can do your writing for you.

Sure you can get a ghostwriter, but that’s not YOU writing and taking the pride and satisfaction of having penned your story.

Read the original advice from Anne Lamott here.

Then, go write.

review bird by bird by anne lamottStruggling to write? Get hold of Anne Lamott’s famous guide for writers, Bird by Bird. The 25th anniversary edition is out and it’s just as helpful for writers as it was when it first came out. An easy read, it will take you through starting, rotten drafts, plotting and so much more. Check it out here.

[post photo credit, Jonny Goldstein, Flickr]

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