Monday, April 21, 2008

Bird by Bird

One of my all-time favorite books about writing is Anne LaMott's Bird by Bird.

This isn't about that.

Recently, I found myself describing myself as a "news crow," followed up by a little "CAW!" noise. While it strikes me, in retrospect, that this is the odd behavior I might expect from an eccentric great-aunt, I have to own up to being both eccentric and a great-aunt, and a great aunt to boot.

And I am a news crow. This is a syndrome borne of years of enterprising writing, nurtured by the benign neglect of editors who realized that if left to my own devices I would indeed come back with a story of some sort. Not unlike the crow who is constantly waylaid by sparkly-looking items he sees while flying from one place to another.

Neal White is one of the editors who has made a major contribution to my inner stylebook as a writer. With a bemused grin, he tells other writers that I could go to the grocery store and come back with three story ideas.

I have to admit this is my precise business model as a writer. Okay, it's not that precise.

Alas, I am hopelessly journalistically ADHD, and have learned while taking notes on one story to take other story ideas that come from the same notes and circle-and-star them so I can follow up later.

And there's the standard final handshake line which so often leads to other stories: "Thanks again for talking with me. And if you get any other story ideas, let me know."

But I will say, from personally observing gifted writers I know, the Crow model isn't the only way to go. There's the News Buzzard, for example -- the writer who can smell something rotten in Denmark (thanks Shakespeare) from a long way off, and who will circle around patiently and do the homework until finding the perfect moment to get the goods.

More writing birds to come.

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