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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing…
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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott

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6,331150621 (4.18)181
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Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)
A very dear friend was appalled that I hadn't read any of Lamott's non-fiction that she sent two books to me. (For full disclosure, I had read one fiction book and had found it deeply lacking leading me to wonder what all the fuss over Lamott was about.)

bird by bird showed me the errors of my ways, and I have joined the bandwagon of people beating the drum for sweet, honest, just as messed up as the rest of us, Anne Lamott.

Although each chapter is, ostensibly, about writing and learning how to shut those voices in our heads off and being willing to just write "shitty first drafts," it's also about learning to live life honestly.

I fell so thoroughly in love with Ms. Lamott that I left her a mash note on her Facebook page. Something I very rarely do on any author's page. I might have said something about wanting to hug her until I suffocated her. Might have. ( )
  AuntieClio | Mar 31, 2015 |
This is one of those deeply philosophical books for me that takes a long time to read. I have to savor, and underline, and re read, and highlight. It is thoroughly practical and sympathetic to the human condition, and the role that writing plays within it. ( )
  librarycatnip | Jan 12, 2015 |
I'm going to echo what many other reviewers have said about this book, mainly that it's a self-indulgent, whiny and contains very little actual advice for writing or life, but I think it's necessary to add that it has aged very badly. Thus, it is pretty useless for an aspiring writer in the 21st century.

Lamott's paroxysms of angst over writing restaurant reviews on a typewriter or word processor over the luxurious span of several days to a week that she then snail mails to an editor come off as quaint tales of olden days to the modern writer. Today, authors post their progress and publication dates on several social media outlets and, more often than not, blog about ancillary topics while working on their novels. So Lamott's reassurances that successful writers stare at empty screen and "wool gather" or, in one of the worst examples of many terrible analogies in the book, rock back and forth like an autistic child, comes off as hopelessly out of touch with writers, the publishing world and writing in general. Perhaps because I've worked in modern newsrooms with same-hour deadlines, I couldn't help but think if writing was this difficult and torturous for her, maybe Lamott should have examined other avenues to channel her efforts through. And it became increasingly difficult to take her seriously as a writer with each passing page.

For example, Lamott's description of how she nearly lost the third portion of an advance for one of her novels but regained it by going on a cocaine-laced bender and showing up at her editor's house -- his personal home, mind you -- and explaining what her novel was supposed to be only reinforced the growing sense I had while reading the book that this was a woman who desperately wanted to be a writer, didn't really have the talent, but through leveraging already-existing contacts shoehorned her way into moderate success. She portrays the subsequent plot treatment requested by the editor, receipt of the advance portion and publication of the book as a success, but I found it to be rather sad and pathetic.

The glaring truth that really makes this book a difficult read is that Lamott's writing simply isn't great. Her descriptions are pedestrian, such as "an old black woman from the South". She actually describes special Olympics participants vaguely as all looking "sort of" related to each other (a lazy and insulting description). Lamott also goes on ad nauseum about all the usual writing advice -- let your characters do what they want, carry a notebook everywhere, describe using all five senses etc. -- but her own descriptions are so bland you keep wishing she would take her own advice. The anecdotes alternate between condescending and boring and do nothing to actually shed insight on writing or living a successful life.

Finally, Lamott, of course, struggled with neurosis and alcohol and a host of other issues but you can tell she revels in this a bit as part of being a writer. The whole book screams, "See! I drank too much and am a slob and melodramatic and therefore am quirky and eccentric like writers are supposed to be!! But it's OK because I discovered God but refer to God as 'her'! See how pithy and writer-ly I am? Isn't that hilarious?"

When her response to getting the second draft of her novel rejected was that "fortunately" she still drank at the time, I knew she was one of those people who love the idea of being a writer but don't actually like writing at all. In fact, she admits that writing is the "fly in the ointment" part of being a writer, which is a bit ridiculous to me. If you're going to write a book meant for aspiring writers, shouldn't you actually like writing? If someone hates writing, it inevitably shows in their final product. That's not an issue one can learn their way out from under. Lamott is a case in point. ( )
  Shutzie27 | Dec 31, 2014 |
Recommended by Sora K.
  JennyArch | Nov 3, 2014 |
I had always somehow thought of Anne Lamott as sappy, but it turns out she is actually funny and insightful and interesting. In her writing advice, at least, but I suspect also in her fiction, which I might also have to read now. This was the perfect thing to read to get ready for NaNoWriMo: equal parts inspiring and plainly useful. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Oct 26, 2014 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
I grew up around a father and a mother who read every chance they got, who took us to the library every Thursday night to load up on books for the coming week.
Quotations
…getting all of one’s addictions under control is a little like putting an octopus to bed.
...perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.
I understood immediately the thrill of seeing oneself in print. It provides some sort of primal verifications. You are; therefore you exist.
If you find that you start a number of stories or pieces that you don't even bother finishing, that you lose interest or faith in them along the way, it may be that there is nothing at their center about which you care passionately.
…if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse.”
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
I found this book in a library after my life fell apart one rainy day in California. I thought the writing was so clean and simple and straight forward and funny that I almost cried with happiness. Telling the truth is really hard, but writing the truth is almost impossible. After that day, I went back to college for a few decades...so glad I did.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385480016, Paperback)

Think you've got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn't afraid to help you let it out. She'll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott's witty take on the reality of a writer's life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer's block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:11 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that hed had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brothers shoulder, and said, Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird. Here, for the first time, is a local edition of the bible of writing guidesa wry, honest,-- down-to-earth book that has never stopped selling since it was first published in the United States in the 1990s. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott, a bestelling novelist and memoirist, distils what shes learned over years of trial and error. Beautifully written, wise, and immensely helpful, this is the book for serious writers and writers-to-be."--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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