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Good Read: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

During our vacation, I read a few books and I also reread Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  I always enjoy Anne Lamott’s books.  Although this is book is mainly for writers, I found that her words are transferable to any creative discipline.  Below are some of my favorite quotes from her book, and perhaps you will find her words inspiring, too.


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“E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘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.’  You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way.  You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.  This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”


“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.  You need to start somewhere.   Start by getting something — anything — down on paper.  A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down.  The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up.  You try to say what you have to say more accurately.  And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or eve, God help us, healthy.”


“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop.  You can’t — and, in fact, you’re not supposed to — know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.”


“You may need someone else to bounce your material off of, probably a friend or a mate, someone who can tell you if the seams show, or if you’ve lurched off track, or even that it is not as bad as you thought … But by all means let someone else take a look at your work.  It’s too hard always to have to be the executioner.”


“That’s how real life works, in our daily lives as well as in the convalescent home and even at the deathbed, and this is what good writing allows us to notice sometimes.  You can see the underlying essence only when you strip away the busyness, and then some surprising connections appear.”


“So we need to sit there, and breathe, calm ourselves down, push up our sleeves, and begin again.”


“Writers tend to be so paranoid about talking about their work because no one, including us, really understands how it works.  But it can help a great deal if you have someone you can call when you need a pep talk, someone you have learned to trust, someone who is honest and generous and who won’t jinx you.”


“And I don’t think you have that kind of time either.  I don’t think you have the time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it, and I don’t think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect.”


“If you look around, I think you will find the person you need.  Almost every writer I’ve ever known has been able to find someone who could be both a friend and a critic.  You’ll know when the person is right for you and when you are right for that person.  It’s not unlike finding a mate, where little by little you begin to feel that you’ve stepped into a share that was waiting there all along.”


“Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems.  Publication will not make you more confident or more beautiful, and it will probably not make you any richer.”


“Being enough was going to have to be an inside job.”


“You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time.  You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when  you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.”


“The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madam or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work.”


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