Looking through some of my writing books, I picked up an old favorite: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Many of you are familiar with this national bestseller, which is filled with helpful, funny and sometimes provocative advice. Here are just a few of the sections I highlighted in my copy:
"A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up."
"Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can't—and, in fact, you're not supposed to—know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing."
"Take the attitude that what you are thinking and feeling is valuable stuff, and then be naïve enough to get it all down on paper."
"In the beginning, when you're first starting out, there are a million reasons not to write, to give up. That is why it is of extreme importance to make a commitment to finishing sections and stories, to driving through to the finish. The discouraging voices will hound you—'This is all piffle,' they will say, and they may be right. What you are doing may just be practice. But this is how you are going to get better, and there is no pointing practicing if you don't finish."
"Annie Dillard has said that day by day you have to give the work before you all the best stuff you have, not saving up for later projects. If you give freely, there will always be more."