Some Advice for Writers from Birders

I’m both a birder and a writer.

When I bird, I’m often out there enjoying whatever birds come my way. But sometimes, I’m looking for a specific bird. I have a goal. It can be frustrating when I can’t find it, and even more frustrating when others can.

When I’m writing, I’m often creating a story for the joy of it. But sometimes, I’m creating a story with a goal of getting published. It can be frustrating when I can’t get it right, or can’t sell it. It’s even more frustrating when I see someone else have success with a tale similar to what I hoped to write.

But is writing or birding really about matching what others have done? Or is it about loving what I’m doing? It’s really beautiful to me how the lessons I learn in one part of my life help me enjoy another part. Hopefully some of these thoughts will help you with either birding, writing, or whatever path you are pursuing.

1. If you walk the same paths, you’re going to see the same birds.

Be brave an explore a new kind of story, a new genre, a new path. Pick up a book you’ve never read before. Read poetry. Go uphill instead of around the pond.

2. Sometimes you have to go find the birds, and sometimes the birds find you.

I try to keep an open mind to what stories bubble up in my brain, even when I’m not looking for a new one. I find inspiration in a lot of places – music, news stories, scientific discovery, or even a misspoken word. Be open, and always carry a notebook.

3. Standing still doesn’t mean you’re not birding.

You might think you’re not a real writer if you haven’t sold anything, or if you haven’t written in awhile. It’s OK to take a break and refuel your creativity. You don’t have to prove anything to others.

4. If you kill all the bugs, you won’t get any birds.

Some bugs are scary, some might hurt. Let in some of the unusual, the unfamiliar, the scary and the possibly painful. It could lead to something great.

5. It can be wonderful to bird with others. But sometimes you need to bird on your own.

Critique groups and conferences and writing sessions are amazing. And so are birding walks with groups. But it can be distracting and disheartening if these groups lead you to compare yourself with others too much. It’s OK to want some time to yourself.