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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Piece by piece, brick by brick. A little bit each day, no matter how shitty your first draft, or second draft, or even third draft. Break the problem into smaller, easier-to-digest problems, and tackle these each day, until you wake up one day, and realize you have created something wonderful.

This is a book about writing, but its message connects to all aspects of life and the creative process. The book gets its title from the advice of author Anne Lamott’s father:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

I put this to practice a few summers ago when I build a deck in our backyard without knowing the first thing about building a deck or area building codes. I broke each challenge into smaller problems and tackled them one by one. Board by board. It took me about a month chipping away at each each evening after work. until finally, there was only one board left to place.

The message in this book also proved beneficial in my previous life as a coder. When I ran into a problem, simply break it down into smaller problems and solve those bit by bit.

The book isn’t just about being productive and solving problems. Bird by Bird shares some great advice about storytelling, developing characters, and writing.

From Goodreads: 
If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.


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