“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and, by extension, what we are supposed to be writing.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Yesterday afternoon I re-read my blog post from the morning and noticed an ugly spelling error. Things like that used to horrify me, now I just laughed at my mistake and clicked on the edit button to make it go away forever. If every blog post had to be perfect I’d never get anything done. Which is why Lamott’s quote above resonates with me. I’d read Bird by Bird years ago and it didn’t stick. I didn’t write then, I just thought about writing.
Lamott’s title is derived from a story about her brother and father, who basically told his son to just chip away at a project one part (birds, of course) at a time instead of being overwhelmed by the whole. It reminds me of something my daughter and I say to each other… “It’s just a bird”, or “no big deal”… at any rate the bird analogy stands. Take things one step at a time, chip away at things and don’t worry about making it perfect on the first draft (there’s no such thing anyway). Just do it as Nike would tell you.
That chipping away at it concept applies to any project. Just stop thinking about applying it and do it already. Isn’t that the root of every motivational mantra ever written? And every kick-starter campaign? And every sales meeting? But knowing the trick and doing the trick aren’t the same thing, are they? Planning to do something feels like you’re doing something. But we know better.
I’m reading six books at once right now, and for the life of me I don’t know why I picked up Bird by Bird to read again. But a little bird was calling me and here we are. And in reading it again it resonates as it hadn’t before.
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear”
There’s more to do. My day job calls and I know there’s more to say. There’s always more to say. Every great book I’ve ever read left me satisfied but wanting more. This clunky little blog is bouncing between history, gardening, birds, travel, music and a hundred other passing fancies. But the heart of it is the journey towards better writing. The ritual, practiced daily. Bird by bird.