For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
For my money, you won’t find a better book on writing than Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. My well-worn copy has been read and re-read countless times. She writes about the need for shitty first drafts, that perfectionism is the enemy of the people, and that if you want to turn someone in real life into a character in your fiction (and avoid getting sued for libel), the “best advice I can give you is to give him a teenie little penis so he will be less likely to come forth.”
As for today’s collage, it’s inspired by this passage, from which her book takes its title:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day… he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about 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.”