Writing is Hard
Anne Lamont tells you how to make better writing easier. In her book, Bird by Bird, Lamont provides some guidelines on how the professional author can improve their writing. Guidelines that apply to anyone who wants to write better. Rules that make better writing accessible to us all.
The title of her book comes from her childhood and goes to the heart of her most important rule of writing. Her brother had waited until the night before his bird project was due. He was completely overwhelmed with the thought about how we would do all the work. Her father sat with her brother and consoled him and then said, “Just take it bird by bird.” In other words, don’t get overwhelmed by the end goal. Break it into discreet segments and any writing project is manageable.
1 x 1
Every day sit down and write. There are two reasons for this. First, it provides you with a sense of accomplishment. Second, it builds a habit. Lamont understands that you may not be inspired to write long passages everyday. For this reason she recommends the 1 x 1 picture frame guide. Just write enough to fill the white space in a picture frame that is one inch square. In other words, write at least one average length sentence each day.
Some days you will be inspired and will write much more but by setting this minimum goal you keep momentum going even on days when you are struggling.
Firsts Drafts Are Bad
Or, in using Lamont’s words: first drafts are crappy. But you cannot get to the good third draft without first doing the first one. It is just like making pancakes. The first couple are always either burned or not cooked through. But you cannot get to the good pancakes without making a couple of bad ones.
Knowing that the first draft will be bad helps to overthrow the oppressive tyrant who is keeping you from starting. As Lamont says, “perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” As long as you are trying to write a final version in the first sitting you will never be able to write well. Go into it knowing that you will have to edit and adjust the first draft but get the main points down.
- Start – Write the first draft now.
- Segment – Write one small piece everyday to build the habit.
- Edit – The first draft will be bad so you will have to edit.
Lamont is known for her self-deprecating humor and the book Bird by Bird is no exception. I have pulled a few of her most important recommendations for better writing from the book for this post but I recommend the book for its entertainment value as well.
Now, go write something. ☺