Before I start on the Bird By Bird bit, I'd like to talk about the tree in my front yard. For somehow it always inspires me. It's a Japanese dogwood that was supposed to grow to eight feet. It's now about 20 feel. The other thing is the way it changes, In the spring, the leaves come out green and medium to dark. Then the change happens and the tree begins to turn to lighter colors and finally the entire foliage is white. In the fall the leaves are a dark red. So watching the changes always inspires me.
Now on to Bird By Bird. This time is on finding information and as Anne Lamott says, the phone is a wonderful tool. So are personal contacts with people who know things you don't know. When calling an expert when you say you're a writer and you'd like to know about X, they usually will tell you X and maybe even Y and Z. Sometimes what you hear may not be what you wanted for your plot but thinking things over can give you a different line. I've used the phone and the personal touch. In writing about medical things I was fortunate enough to work in a hospital. I remember once getting much more info than I needed about a blow to the head but all the neurologist told me made the scene in the book more realistic.
Using the phone has had pluses and minuses but I spoke to the Poison Control Center and received volumes of information about poisons and the treatment. I did have one funny phone conversation. I wanted to know how long the police would keep a body of a murder victim before it was released for burial. Very important for the conclusion of a murder mystery. Called a friend of my daughter who was a police officer and had to leave a message.
Perhaps I sounded out of breath or something because the call came back immediately. "What do you need? Is everything all right?"
Me: I just murdered someone. How long will the police keep the body before releasing it?
He: No, no. She's a writer. Ma, you're on speaker phone.
A bit of laughter later and I had my answer.