As I launch back into a new book, I find myself thinking once again about how to write. Because that’s the thing about this crazy endeavor: you start from scratch every time. And sure, you know what you know from all those previous drafts of all those past books. But each time you start again you are confronted by that most daunting of terrors: the blank page.
And it’s almost like none of those other books ever happened.
At those moments, the single wisest piece of writing advice I’ve ever encountered is from the brilliant Anne Lamott. That is, to take any new writing endeavor: Bird by Bird. For all you aspiring writers out there, I recommend rushing out and buying Bird by Bird and reading Ms. Lamott’s wonderful explanation of exactly what that phrase means. On a fundamental level, it’s a reminder to take each piece of writing scene by scene, line by line. To not get overwhelmed by your vision for the whole chapter or story or novel. For me, it’s an absolutely critical piece of advice. And Bird by Bird is an absolutely wonderful book.
Other writing favorites of mine are Stephen King’s On Writing, which left me feeling very ashamed of my overuse of adverbs (I am reformed, I swear) and very comforted by the way Mr. King describes writing himself into figuring out his story–leaving breadcrumbs for himself is I think the way he describes it. And finally, John Gardner’s, On Becoming a Novelist made me feeling like I was coming home. Like I had finally found my tribe.
For any writer, all of the above should be required summer reading.