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Birding and the Writing Process

June 15, 2010

No, I’m not kidding. This title is not a joke.

What does this picture have to do with the writing process and with creativity in general? Well, in case I didn’t make it clear in my last post, I’m loving How to be a Bad Birdwatcher by Simon Barnes. Not only is the book hilarious and also very touching, but I’m finding his theory about birdwatching is very applicable to writing:

You start by blundering about and making a good few blunders, too. Everybody does. My advice is to carry on blundering in a totally unembarrassed way. The more you look, the more blunders you will make, and the more blunders you make, the more you will see, and you find that slowly a pattern has been building up without you realizing it. This building-up of patterns is one of the deeper joys: once you begin to understand the rhythm of birdwatching, you are beginning to understand the rhythm of birds themselves. Which is nothing less than the rhythm of life.

Now, substitute birdwatching for writing, and Simon Barnes is actually saying something very profound. So much of writing is about “blundering about,” playing with an idea, twisting it around in your mind until you find, without really knowing how, that it’s come alive and that it has rhythm. And he’s entirely write: “the more blunders you make” the more you actually see what’s in front of you. And just like with birdwatching, writing is also about giving yourself the time and space to write your way into a thought without knowing exactly what it means until suddenly you find patterns emerging. Writing, too, is about the power of being surprised.

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve realized how much bird watching — just like writing — is about something very simple: learning how to open your eyes.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2010 10:29 pm

    I agree — opening your eyes is key. That’s how you pick up on all of the details/nuances which can turn OK-writing into great writing!

  2. June 16, 2010 9:30 am

    I recall attending a lecture a few years ago on “Error: The Last Instance of Beauty.” Blundering and experimenting without a set purpose can indeed be productive (and fun!)

  3. June 16, 2010 1:39 pm

    ABsolutely. It’s Die allma”hliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Birding!

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