Friday, March 14, 2008

bird by bird

I had checked out the Shark Week 20th Anniversary DVD set from the library and finally got time to watch a couple of the shows. I hesitated as to whether I should watch this, because I really do not feel scared at all about the prospect of swimming with or diving with sharks, so I wondered whether it might just be best to stay in a state of total oblivion as to what I'm getting myself into, rather than sitting around watching shark attack shows!

But I decided to watch. At first I just watched a nice sweet documentary about various sharks - the gentle giant whale sharks, the smaller reef sharks, manta rays, and a bit about great white shark natural history. Ho hum. Then I decided, what the heck, I will next watch the Shark Attack show.

Big Mistake!

Just kidding.... Actually, it didn't scare me at all either. I did learn some things that were quite interesting. For one thing, most shark atacks occur at the surface when people are swimming and thrashing about or surfing. Underwater, as I will be, you're at much less risk since you are not kicking and appearing to be a struggling prey item. One one of the shows, one shark diver regularly swims really close to tiger sharks - the second most aggressive shark - and believes it to be safe.

What scares the bejesus out of me is staring at the ginormous stack of receipts from 2007 that I have to now organize and compile for my income taxes. I am only home for 6 more days before leaving for Australia (there's a trip to Colorado and Palo Duro Canyon in there first). How the heck am I going to get it done, with all the other things I need to do?

In the writing classes I teach, my students often talk about feeling overwhelmed at the task of knowing where to begin. There are so many angles to tackle learning to publish in magazines. We analyze the magazines themselves. We come up with saleable ideas. We work on our writing, and we work on query letter writing. So with all these things, it can simply seem overwhelming to get started and to just sit down and do it. But that's what you gotta do. Just start.

Anne Lamott writes in her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, (which is one of my favorite books and absolutely hysterical) about how her brother had this huge report due on birds that he's waited until the last minute to do. He was in near tears sitting at the kitchen table, overwhelmed. Their dad came up and said to him, "Bird by Bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

I like to call them microsteps . Often an overwhelming task can be broken down into something more manageable when you set microsteps, and accomplish them one by one. Bird by bird.

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