Blogging Tips from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

By Beth Walker

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One of the books that is consistently recommended by writers is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. At less than 250 pages this book is worth your time. Bird by Bird, subtitled, “Some Instructions on Writing and Life”, resonated with me in several chapters.

Although Bird by Bird isn’t a book written for bloggers specifically, I really appreciated the suggestions offered to writers, and I have already seen a payoff in my own process. Here are my favorite tips from Bird by Bird.

Write Something Every Day

Writing every day not only keeps you in the habit of writing, but keeps your thoughts flowing. Anne Lamott says “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”

Regardless of the content you are trying to produce, you are most likely writing because you care deeply about your subject matter. The best sales people are the ones that actually believe in whatever it is they are selling.

Anne explains that it doesn’t matter what it is you are writing. If you have a block on the subject you are supposed to cover don’t let that stop you. Describe what you ate for breakfast. Write about what happened on the bus, or what is on the shelves of the grocery store. Be as descriptive as you can. The goal is simply to write something every day.

Write A Terrible First Draft

Anne Lamott includes a different word when she highlights the first draft, but I’ve subbed in the word terrible. The point is still the same. If you are more concerned about the exact order of your words than you are about getting them out of your head and onto paper you will hinder yourself.

This terrible first draft is not to be shown to anyone else. This draft is just to purge your mind of all the idea you have on your subject. Getting all your thoughts on paper gives you the chance to consider how they flow altogether. You may decide that half of the original thoughts need to be edited out, and that’s fine.

Research and Consult Experts

My favorite story of this example in Bird by Bird is the story of Anne calling a greenhouse. Anne is not a gardener. She is aware of her limitations, so when the time came to write about a character who is a gardener, she consulted an expert.

At first, I thought the suggestion to call an expert could be replaced with the more modern research tool of Google, but as I’ve considered this more, I think the suggestion to seek out an expert is still the best move.

By listening to someone with understanding on a subject you are less familiar with you get a perspective that includes emotion and experience not always apparent on paper. There will be details added that might have seemed unimportant to a novice reading up on a subject. These details can be the difference between someone trusting you to present a subject or not.

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