Short Assignments, False Starts, and Index Cards – what do these three things have in common? They are all chapters in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. This book is a great reference whether you’re writing a report on birds (Lamott’s younger brother undertook this task, which is how the book got its title) or you’re writing a novel. Lamott’s advice is outstanding. This is one of the greatest books on writing that has been written in the last twenty years, and it is one of the few writing books I have read that I still refer to on a regular basis. Lamott is very candid in her treatment of the writing craft, and gives tips on how you can avoid the dreaded writer’s block, how to get feedback from others, how to know when you’re done with a project, and how to combat perfectionism in writing.
Perhaps my favorite chapter in this book is the one covering the “Shitty First Draft.” Let’s face it, nothing comes out perfect the first time. By giving yourself to write a really terrible first draft, you can beat perfectonism. Let’s face it, a writer’s worst enemy is perfectionism. Instead, when you’re writing your first draft, focus only on getting your thoughts down on paper (or the computer screen) as fast and without judgment as possible.
It’s definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who writes or wants to write.