When it comes to choosing a book for the Smart Twenties Book Club I put a lot of pressure on myself.
The book doesn’t just have to be good, it has to be amazing (which can be a little hard since I’m reading the book in real time with you and don’t know whether it’ll be good or not until it’s too late).
The book has to be a little different to the last few I’ve recommended but at the same time it still needs to fit.
The book has to be one I’m actually interested in reading (and not just one I’m reading because I feel like I should/everyone else is – I’m the kind of person that’s easily persuaded by what everyone else’s doing).
And most importantly, the book has to be one that you’ll actually be interested in reading too (because that’s kinda the whole point here, isn’t it?)
So I was a little nervous when choosing Bird by Bird, written by Anne Lamott, as the most recent book for the STBC.
I didn’t have any doubts that it’d be good enough – it’s often referred to as one of the ‘must-read’ books when it comes to doing any sort of writing. But that’s exactly what made me nervous, would you want to read a Bird by Bird, a book that’s about writing?
But you know what? I don’t regret choosing this book at all.
It isn’t for everyone (more on that soon) but I know a lot of you are writers – you have a blog, you write for work or you want to write for work. And if you’re any of those, this book is definitely worth reading.
If you’ve ever sat down to write something (especially if you weren’t writing because you ‘had’ to but because you decided to) then you’ll be familiar with some of the insecurities that can come up when you’re writing.
It’s actually quite amazing just how much self-doubt can be unsurfaced by the simple act of putting pen to paper, even if no one’s going to read what we write or we’re just writing for the pleasure of it. And it’s quite amazing how much we can procrastinate.
If you’re familiar with any of this, Bird by Bird will help you.
As I say every time I write once of these posts, the STBC isn’t a place for me to review a book but where I share what a book got me thinking about.
So here’s what I took away from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:
Don’t be scared to write a shitty first draft
I talk about perfectionism a lot on Smart Twenties, and that’s because it’s one of my biggest struggles.
My belief that everything needs to be perfect (or else it’s not worth doing at all) is debilitating to say the least. It’s a protection mechanism, a way to ensure that I don’t fail even if that means never truly trying in the first place. I mean, I can’t write a bad blog post if I don’t write anything at all.
So I love that in Bird by Bird Anne talks about writing shitty first drafts and profusely encourages them.
It’s comforting knowing I’m not the only one that can’t just sit down and produce a perfect piece of writing in one hit. And it’s even more comforting knowing many of the world’s best authors can’t do it either.
It’s all about getting something on paper, even if it’s pure shit, and then transforming it. It’s about starting. It’s about creativity without a censor.
Write some shit and edit it – it’s better than not writing anything at all.
You might think you hate the writing process but you actually love it
I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve sat down to write a blog post and have just wished it was already written for me.
Actually, I wish I could skip the writing process almost every single time I sit at my desk – I know that as soon as that blinking cursor is staring back at me I’m going to have to deal with a whole heap of self-doubt, indecision and procrastination.
Plus writing always takes longer than I’d planned, it’s always messy and while it’s happening I don’t feel particularly happy and I don’t really feel any sense of enjoyment.
And yet I keep coming back.
When I’m not writing I believe I love writing. And when I am writing I usually wish I was doing anything but.
But it’s all about the process and even though it might not feel enjoyable at the time, it is.
It’s being in flow. It’s creativity. It’s playing with words and ideas. It’s that sense of accomplishment when you’ve said what you wanted to say.
I need to stop wishing the process away, it’s the reason I keep coming back.
Don’t write to get rich
Anne is pretty cynical in Bird by Bird when it comes to writing for fame and fortune. And if you’re looking for some motivation to quit your day job so you can write that best-selling novel, she isn’t here to give it to you.
She believes in writing, but she doesn’t believe writing should be the means to an end.
Even just writing for this blog, I’ve realised that if you’re going to write stuff for free (which most authors would have to do at the outset) then you’ve really got to love it to keep going – especially considering all the emotional crap and self-doubt that comes up during the writing process.
There are much quicker ways to fame and fortune than writing. And easier ones too.
Join the Smart Twenties Book Club
Did you know the Smart Twenties Book Club has moved to email?
About once a month, I send STBC members a super-long exclusive email packed full of my personal book recommendations and reviews! Just click the button below to become a member instantly:
What do you think?
Did you read Bird by Bird (or have you read it in the past)? And if so, what did you take away from the book?
Let me know in the comments below!