Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

Writer’s books - Bird by Bird (Anne Larnott) and On Writing Well (William Zinsser) - (audio)books of the week


It’s official. I’m writing the #iPadOnly book together with a friend of mine, Augusto Pinaud. It’s going to be my first real book so I decided to get myself some good book manuals before diving into writing. And who to ask for advice? Tim Ferriss of the “4-hour workweek” fame mentioned two books that helped him write better… so I got both of them from Audible and started listening:

Writer’s books - Bird by Bird (Anne Larnott) and On Writing Well (William Zinsser) - (audio)books of the week

Get On writing well: Audible Amazon

Get Bird by Bird: Audible Amazon

I read Sol on Writing which gave me good ideas about what it takes to write a good book, what to focus on and how to write. Of course, knowing the theory doesn’t mean I can pull off a great book, we’ll just have to wait and see :-)

These two books, “Bird by Bird” and “On Writing Well” inspired me not to worry and “just go with it” and keep writing. They also gave me a few more ideas I’d like to mention here:

Simplicity always wins

William Zinsser in “On Writing Well” says simplicity is key. We should write just as if we’d talk to the audience. When choosing between a more complicated (“sophisticated”) phrase or sentence, or a simpler one, the latter should be chosen at all times.

By using short sentences and simple phrases we make our content more “active”. Every sentence is a thought. If it’s too long, people get confused, if it’s short enough, it hits home and our audience gets it. We should write about a subject the way we’d explain it when sitting in front of someone. This way we show our true selves. Author should not be afraid to expose himself, people read the book to meet him and get to know him. That’s why the best-selling authors have such a large following.

When you think about it, writing a book is like blogging. You find your own voice, you write like you speak and you write directly to someone. That’s why I’ve been practicing writing by blogging for so many years. And I hope this helped me become a better writer…

One bird at a time

Anne Larnott focuses more on what “being a writer” means. A writer needs to write even though they might not understand or accept his words. It’s what Seth Godin said once: “I’d blog even if nobody read my blog, I do it for myself”. The same applies to writing. And inspiration doesn’t just “come” - we must keep writing to find it. That’s why the concept of “shitty first draft” is so important - even if you’d have to throw away the entire first draft of your book, it’d have helped your writing process.

Anne gives a great example of a person writing a book on birds and having problems to actually start the book. He gets the advice to go “one bird at a time” or “bird by bird” until the book is done. Brilliant.

Another great example was Anne comparing writing to driving at night. You know where you want to go, but you don’t see everything on your way. The headlights give you enough view to be able to keep going forward and this is what you should focus on. Just keep “driving” towards your goal and don’t worry about everything that’s pitch black beyond the headlights…

It’s going to be a great ride

Writing a book is a different beast than writing a blog post… but on the other hand it’s just a bigger beast with more structure. Let’s see how our #iPadOnly book works out - it’d be the first book about making the iPad your only machine. It’s going to be a real post-PC book… and I can’t wait to show it to you. I can’t wait to have it written :-)

Questions: Have you ever wanted to write a book? Or have you written one? Do you practice writing? What’s your favorite book on writing?

Thursday, April 4, 2013 /books-bird-by-bird-on-writing-well/