E-Kan Soong (of my Friday Day Class, “The Lion King,” and “Lesly Street” fame, among others), sent me the email below. BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott is one of my fave books; I first heard about the concept in her phenomenal book OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS.
In that book she talks about when she was a little girl on vacation with her family. Her little brother had been given an assignment in school to Write a book report about birds to turn in the day after vacation, but he never even started to write it. The night before school was to resume he asked his father what to do and his father said, “Write it.”
The little brother said, “How?”
And the father said, “Bird by bird.”
SUCH fabulous advice. Here’s what E-Kan had to say:
. . . Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD [is probably] one of the best and easiest to read books beloved by writers. . . . I see parallels for actors too.
When she is daunted at the start of writing something, she has a one inch frame on her desk to remind her of what to do.
“It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being. All I am going to do right now, for example, is write that one paragraph that sets the story in my hometown… Or all I am going to do right now is to describe the main character the very first time we meet her…”
It makes me think of those of us who get overwhelmed by couch time. With all the things we know we need to do, like technicals, genre, circumstances, breakdown, etc., we don’t know where to start; we might not even get started at all.
Maybe we should just focus on the one-inch frame to start, maybe the breakdown. Or given circumstances. And go from there.
There’s another quote in the book:
“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.”
That makes me think of cover up the page a little bit too and not burning our steps.
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