Bird by Bird

Posted on September 27, 2009 by Mike Riddell

One of the best books I ever read on writing was by Anne Lamott, entitled ‘Bird by Bird’. The title comes from the following incident:


“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.’”

It’s a philosophy of life as well as a technique for writing. Rather than being overwhelmed by the number of tasks to be completed, simply focussing on the next one at hand provides a means of moving forward. Producing a feature film, I find myself needing to reclaim this approach time and time again. It has a way of simplifying and purifying the necessary demands.

A meeting with a potential director of photography on Friday was enormously energising. Should he come on board, I think we may hope for spectacular cinematography.

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