Bird by bird

bird by birdI had heard a lot of good things about Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird so I decided to pick it up.  I'm a writer by trade but by no means a creative writer (I do tech stuff). The only "creative" writing I do is on my blog. Every now and then I have it in my head to write something but then my fever goes down, I go back to normal and the thought passes quickly.

But although this is focused on creative writing it does have some useful information, even for me. Her index cards that she keeps on her desk are much like my post-its and to do list. At one point in time, not long after I started and as I headed into my first publishing phase at work, my wall was totally littered with post-its. It was post-it wallpaper.  And my to do list, originally started in a notebooks and now logged in EverNote, are a part of any good day. Seriously. Any day I work without my to do list just doesn't work that well. And items in my to do list will lead to other to do lists and so on.

Two things that I really did like about her book were "short assignments" and "shitty first drafts". When we are working a updating our books (and at some point in the next year they are going to need *serious* overhauls as we move to a different way of documenting information) it can be really overwhelming. The short assignment is a good reminder for me that I can do things chapter by chapter, task by task.  There is nothing worse than working on something for a week and feeling like you've gotten nothing done.  Short assignments are good. Especially when I enter the short assignments individually and can look at all the things I've crossed off (I'm a strike-through type of gal, check-marks just don't do it for me).

Shitty first drafts - oh my I have written some of those. We can end up sending our documents out for review a number of times - design review, expert review, preliminary release, editing review and eventually they get sent out as the standard release.  Often when sent out for review you know there are missing items or that something could use some tweaking.  My co-workers and I often remind each other that it's a draft and that we are sending them out to actually *get* that information. But still, ever time I make that PDF and attach it to that review email or upload it for viewing by others I feel panicked I want to yell and pull it back and hide because it's not ready yet.  The point that Lamott is trying to make is that no one has to see your FIRST draft. And she's on the money on that one. As I send out each document for review being convinced it sucks perhaps I need to remind myself that at least they didn't see the FIRST draft.

Not everyone will love this book. Some readers (and I suppose writers) won't like Lamott's approach or her life stories.  But if you can get past that, there is some helpful information in this book. It may not be new to you, but sometimes it's just good to be reassured right?