My first introduction to Anne Lamott was while I was in college. I was studying religion both from an academic perspective and from a faith-based perspective. The two are not exclusive. Her book of essays on faith, Traveling Mercies, was a big hit & had become (and still is, I think) required reading for young women struggling to find an edgy voice for their faith.

I read the vast majority of it on a transatlantic flight the summer between my sophomore & junior year and promptly left it in an airport in Vienna.

Nevertheless, that book gave me a lot of hope. It wasn’t that it was anything too new to me – just a true reflection of so much of my own internal dialogue, printed and bound.

Somehow, no one ever suggested reading Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird, until Megan sputtered that she was shocked I’d never read it. Oops! I devoured it while flying between Allentown and Portland last week. With each new chapter, I was shocked at what I was reading. I wasn’t learning that much about writing but I was seeing business & marketing strategy in a new whole new light.

What Anne Lamott has to say about the craft of writing also applies to building a passion-driven business in the 21st century. I will share a few of my favorite ideas below but, please, do yourself a favor and add Bird by Bird to your business reading list!

The problem that comes up over and over again is that these people want to be published. They kind of want to write but they really want to be published. You’ll never get to where you want to be that way, I tell them.

You kind of like what you’re doing but what you really want is to make money, be successful, have a business that supports you.

You can’t put the cart before the horse.

You must dig deep to find the passion in what you’re doing or you need to make your passion what you’re doing before the truly desired results will manifest themselves.

It is entirely possible to build income streams, a working business, and a platform before you have your true soul-work nailed. But until you nail it, the really juicy results will remain out of reach.

The core, ethical concepts in which you most passionately believe are the language in which you are writing.

These concepts probably feel like givens, like things no on ever had to make up, that have been true through all cultures and for all time. Telling these truths is your job.

Want to know what to blog about? What to send in your emails? What to tweet about? Tell us about the world from your perspective: the givens, the understandings, the questions, the codes, and the visions.

Explain to me what is most basic to the way you see the world & the people in it.

Explore & expand, sure. But understand that what is core to you may be new & exciting to me. Understand that I may have never met another person that believes what I believe and to find you, putting words to my thoughts, makes you a superhero. Tell me the stories that never get old (even if they do for you).

Don’t skip ahead. And don’t forget about this just because you’ve been around for awhile. Keep coming back to the very core of what you believe to be true and tell me anew.

All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions. Some people will sing it spontaneously, with a lot of soulful riffs, while others are going to practice until they could sing it at the Met.

Bottomline: don’t worry about the competition. Keep your mind on your own business, you own song, and sing it loud!

Those who might look like competitors to outsiders may really be potential harmonizers.

We all have a little something different to offer. When you get clear on what notes you’re singing, it’s easy to find those around you who are singing the same song with a different set of notes. And, since I have a minor in music, I can tell you that’s the definition of harmony.

Harmony is beautiful. And it’s often something that gets people to take notice.

Do your ears perk, does your skin prickle, when you hear two or three singers raising harmony into the world? Mine do. Mine ears also perk, my skin also prickles when I see you collaborating with and supporting fellow business owners. Find your harmonizers and lift up a song.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. … I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. … Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.

If you are waiting for your idea/website/launch/business model/ebook/service package/copy writing to be perfect before you get started, it’s time to quit waiting. Just start. It will never be perfect. Instead, it will wallow in mediocrity and the only person to ever know about it will be you.

Go big – go public – or go home.

There will be mess, failure, destruction, frustration, and sorrow. And that will make your victory & success all the sweeter.

Amidst mess, there can be order. Amidst failure, there can be perseverance. Amidst imperfection, there can be greatness. In fact, that’s the only way those things have ever existed.

Convinced? Add Bird by Bird to your reading list.