I’ve just added Anne Lamott to my “List of People I’d Really Like To Meet”. Having just read her book Bird by bird: Some instructions on writing and life, I think she’s a nice person, interesting to be around and very wise.
The book contains many, many tips for the aspiring writer. Not on the technical stuff, like how to put the words together or how to sell your finished book to a publisher, but more on how to live as a writer. She makes the excellent point, that a writer’s main ambition should not be to be published but to write, since that is what a writer does most of the time.
Anne Lamott teaches writing, and this book is structured a little like some of her writing classes, and her description of the way her students react when she tells them that being published is not the answer to all their problems is hilarious. As is much of the book, actually. Her insight into herself and her uncompromising willingness to share those insights no matter how funny, embarassing or tragic is what gives this book it’s energy.
Her two main tips on writing are:
1: Give yourself short assignments
2: Write shitty first drafts
So, take on a small piece of the complete work at one time, and be willing to do really poorly in the first draft. Which is actually a good way to tackle many large projects.
I recommend this book to any would-be writer and to all avid readers who’d like some insight into the life of a writer.