BEAD BY BEAD —> BIRD BY BIRD

10 Oct

“Turkey Monster Thanksgiving” in the forefront

Weekend before last, I signed books in Florence, Oregon, at the second annual Festival of Books.  A very nicely organized, easy-to-do festival, but still not enough children coming through.  Perhaps, next year, the organizers will get more buzz into the schools.

Can you see the wall hanging in the photo?  Created by my friend, Jan Dymond, it’s a Velcro-The-Beak-on-the -Turkey mural.  At book signings for kids, we hang it lower and let the kids go at it. 

The children who came by loved the cover illustrations of the Katie Jordan series.  Almost every child who picked up a copy, wanted to own one.   Check out Tuesday Mourning, the illustrator.  I’m hoping she’ll illustrate the cover of Second-Chance Summer.

BEAD BY BEAD

Here it is, the famous wedding necklace.  It’s done; it’s beautiful, and Amy loves it.

Amy’s necklace

Made of pearls and silver-lined crystal seed beads, it sparkles more than in the picture.  One of the nicest pieces I’ve ever beaded, and it went beautifully with the gorgeous gown my daughter wore last Saturday.  What does beading have to do with writing?  Think about how they both get done:  bead by bead, and WORD BY WORD!  Tiny building blocks that eventually lead to something good.

WHICH LEADS US VERY NATURALLY TO . . . BIRD BY BIRD

One of my favorite books about writing, this book by Anne Lamott is full of good solid advice and enthusiasm about writing.  Why this title?  She tells us that many years ago, her ten-year-old brother was assigned a paper about birds.  He had spent three months, gathering information, books, paper and pencils,but was immobilized by the project. The night before the paper was due, with nothing yet written, he went in despair to his father.

“Then my father sat down beside him,” Lamott writes, “put his arm around my brother’s shoulders and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird’.”

WORDS OF WISDOM

Lamott believes that we are often stymied by the huge task in front of us.  She suggest “short assignments,” writing only as much as will fit into a one-inch picture frame.   For example, she suggest we write one paragraph that “describes the main character the very first time we meet her, when she first walks out the front door and onto the porch.”  She continues:   “I am not even going to describe the expression on her face when she first notices the blind dog sitting behind the wheel of her car — just what I can see through the one-inch picture frame. “

Can you limit yourself to such small writing exercises?  Of course, you can.  Will they get you closer to writing a book?  Of course, they will.

E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

Lamott is famous for her advice about SHITTY FIRST DRAFTS.  Good advice, because it gives us permission to let go of the perfectionism that halts us in mid-sentence.   Writing a shitty first draft, she says, is how we get to good second drafts and terrific third drafts.   This is the way all writers do it, she says, except for one person, and she doesn’t really like that person.

Humor.  Insightful advice.  The certainty that she encounters the same problems that challenge all of us.  We are not alone. 

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4 Responses to “BEAD BY BEAD —> BIRD BY BIRD”

  1. Ann Marie Etheridge October 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Oh Anne, this post is rich with inspiration and encouragement. Thank you!

    One suggestion that I have for folks is to join a writing group! What works for me to to know that I will be meeting with my Peeps every other Thursday, and it keeps me “accountable” to sit down and try to get something out. Then before I even realize it, I often have a whole chapter done (though not always). And the BONUS is that I get to read what other members have written, which I always find helpful.

    “Bird by bird,” I carry on.

    • annewarrensmith October 14, 2012 at 10:38 am #

      We learn so much when we listen to what the other people in a group say about a piece of writing. All those brains come together to form good insights.

  2. Mar October 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    I just love hearing your calm voice in your posts, as well as the good information. You had me glancing at my bookshelf again. I thought a friend once gave me Bird by Bird, but it was Annie Lamott’s The Writing Life instead. Both are good! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Mar October 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    I forgot to say that if the necklace looks this good in a photo, it must be exquisite! I can see a few hours of work there!

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