This one’s short.
In Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, a memoir of her son’s first year and her struggles as a single mother, she recalls this anecdote about writer’s block:
. . . I remembered the other day a weekend I spent with my family at our cabin in Bolinas when I was seven or eight and my older brother was nine or ten. He had this huge report on birds due in school and hadn’t even started it, but he had tons of bird books around and binder paper and everything. He was just too overwhelmed, though. And I remember my dad sitting down with him at the dining table and putting his hands sternly on my brother’s shoulders and saying quietly, patiently, “Bird by bird, buddy; just take it bird by bird.” That is maybe the best writing advice I have ever heard.
Lamott went on to write, among other books, Bird by Bird, which is, indeed, one of the best writing books out there. But her father’s advice applies to many other situations, too—when there’s too much to do, too many deadlines, too many uncertainties, too many worries, just too much stuff. Nothing big and complex and important ever gets solved or resolved in short order, be it creating a work of art, managing a chronic disease or anything and everything in-between. Bird by bird.
Image Credit: Rafael Rodrigues Machado