It’s a classic, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Most writers of my generation know the book. Some know it backwards and forwards. Some will pick it up (like yours truly) on occasion, just to help remind us of who we are, what we do, and why we do it.
It’s been many years for me, but I’m re-reading it now. I love how Lamott goes through the standard writing basics, like character and plot, covers the things all writers have to deal with (writer’s block, for instance), and walks us through all of the details we have heard a thousand times in her own unique way. She takes all of the writing “stuff,” and gives it a new (though old) twist.
The story of the book’s title, where her father encouraged her brother to write his report on backyard birds one bird at a time, really hits home for me.
For the last ten years, I have done wild bird rescue. I live with a number of birds who could not, for various reasons, be released. My favorite birds are Starlings, and up until just a couple of weeks ago, I had five.
I won’t go into the death of Stars here, because I have done so at length in my latest Creature Thoughts newsletter, available on my animal consulting services site. However, it has been a poignant realization how the loss of one small being can change one’s life.
I find myself reaching for things that are long past, including my days of rising with the dawn, and doing nothing but writing until it was time to get the kids off to school. I worked through several novels that way, and loved every keystroke. Life is different now, my time is owned by other beings, other needs, and I haven’t been able to return to that degree of dedication.
I’ve been trying to find ways to make my writing more of a priority, and to give it more time out of my days. I’m doing better than I was a few months ago, but still am not where I really want to be. I make little changes, one detail at a time, moving in baby steps in the right direction.
I guess, really, that’s the best that most of us can do.
It seems odd, however, that since Stars died, this feels like even more of a priority. The desire to make the shift back to “writer first, other things following after,” is strong enough to make my heart ache. I have suffered through a great deal of loss in the last dozen or so years. My mom, many of my pets, my dad, my heart-dog, Kai…. But what is it about Stars, that small miracle of a Starling, that has led to these new-old stirrings, and this deep desire to reach for the past?
I’ll keep re-reading Bird by Bird. Perhaps something Anne Lamott says in those pages will spark the intuition that leads to the answer.
And I will write, every day, faithfully: one bird at a time.