📚 Bird by Bird — Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

I gave this book a try after hearing it recommended by several people who were not writers either. And the “instructions on life” part of the title sounded like something I needed more of. First time I read this was 2014, and it helped me make some much welcome changes in life.

A fix for broken workdays

I was self-employed and working alone at the time. Reading these three chapters helped greatly improve how I approached projects, and changed the way I thought about my work.

Short Assignments — Splitting up tasks is something I struggle with badly, but Anne Lamott started to hammer it in. She shares the story behind the title “Bird by Bird” and it’s lovely. 🐦

Shitty First Drafts — I have always had a tendency to overdo preparations, and spend too much time doing research up front. Anything to procrastinate actually getting started. But no more! Whenever I start something new now, I have Anne Lamott in my ear, whispering these magic words: shitty first draft, shitty first draft, just go make the worst ever shitty first draft. 💩

Perfectionism — These five pages are sooo wonderful. 💕

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life…

You’re not alone, this is perfectly normal

Perhaps I was feeling a bit lost at the time, and reading this book let me regain some sense of direction. Anne Lamott writes about “her crazy pinball machine mind”, about the radio playing in her head, and about the conversations she has with people who are not there. It’s very funny and quite reassuring to read. Our lives are messy and screwed up — exactly how they should be.

Thinking about who I spend time with

Someone to Read Your Drafts — Asking for feedback on unfinished writing means being both brave and vulnerable. You’re going to take their critique to heart, so you want to be careful about who you give the opportunity and the power to make these comments. It also works very nicely to read this chapter as a metaphor for people in your life in general.

I don’t think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect. You don’t want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can’t fill up when you’re holding your breath.