Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is one of my go to books on creativity, writing, micro-movements and getting it done when just about anything else seems more important, interesting or, let’s be honest, distracting. The title comes from the story in her childhood when her younger brother was doing an overwhelming school project on birds and mid-meltdown, Lamott’s father, intervened and told the child, just take it bird by bird. I resonate with this every time I re-read her book as if it’s the first time I’ve heard the message.
When I was in a position last summer to make some difficult (exciting and amazing, but they felt difficult at the time) decisions about my next direction, I realized that I had been quietly practicing the art of bird by bird over the years, one painting at a time not realizing that they were destined for a greeting card line. A few of these pieces were a hobby. A bunch of them all together were a collection! Who knew!? And admittedly, If I was to do it again, they would probably be more directed, have a theme, a uniform color palette. But would I have got the job done if I had known all that? I slowly but surely did my 100 paintings, vowing to post on Facebook the good, bad and the ugly. And with that, I had 100 paintings. And then I kept going! I kept accumulating. When you have 100 paintings or 100 posts or 100 essays, you can edit and cull and refine. When you have nothing, you can’t edit air. I remind myself of this these days when the blank page seems vast and tricky. I showed up for my paintings, I was somehow able to let go of results and I wasn’t critiquing as I went. I just kept going. The photo I posted is the cover of my catalogue. I love it because it’s homespun, made on a shoestring budget with love and represents the sum is greater than its individual parts. Over time, showing up repeatedly, I developed a voice that was uniquely my own. I didn’t plan on it being that one, I had no clue I was destined to paint neon buoys or girls on docks or vintage VWs or Hunter boots or typewriters ad infinitum. But showing up and standing still with my art allowed this to take life. Painting by painting. Word by word. xo
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Anne Lamott