Bird by Bird

October 11, 2021

The biggest projects, goals, and dreams in life are all achieved in the same way: one step at a time.

Author Anne Lamott calls this Bird by Bird.

Growing up, her older brother was a rebel. He didn’t care for school and he would put off important assignments to the very last minute.

One essay in particular got the best of his penchant for procrastination. He had six months to write a term paper about the birds of California. He waited until the Saturday before the Monday it was due to start.

You can imagine the stress and anxiety he probably felt. It was an almost insurmountable task, an essay others had been chipping away at for literally months, and he had less than two days.

Luckily for him, his father was a prolific writer.

Rather than condone him for his failure to prepare, he sat him down, and offered sage advice: take it bird by bird.

“Just take it bird by bird, buddy. First you read about chickadees and then you write a paragraph in your own words about chickadees and then you draw a picture. And then you take pelicans and you study up on pelicans, and then you write a paragraph or a passage on pelicans.”

Start with one bird. Read about it, learn about it, write about it. Then move to the next one.

This advice stuck with Anne throughout her life, and was the inspiration for her book of the same name.

She describes writing books like driving at night without the headlights on. You can only see just in front of you, but you can complete the whole journey that way.

This lesson applies far beyond the world of writing books. Whether you’re launching a business, getting back in shape, or planning a travel adventure, you start one step at a time.

Focus on what’s in front of you. Give it your full attention. Once complete, the next step will be waiting for you.