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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing…

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott

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Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
Loved. Timely rescue for writer's block and life. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
In Bird by Bird, her 1994 writing guide, Anne Lamott approaches the craft with a near perfect blend of seriousness and humor, never speaking down to her readers, while at the same time reminding them that a healthy sense of humor about themselves is one of the most useful tools in a writer's kit. Lamott may not be able to turn you into the writer you want to be, but she will motivate you to keep plugging away until something happens – even if that “something” turns out to be a lifetime of writing for your own expressive pleasure.

Lamott characterizes herself as a shy, strange-looking child who learned to use humor to deflect the taunts about her looks that boys made as they rode by on their bicycles. As she puts it, "So first I got funny and then I started to write...” And it paid off, because in high school the desire of her classmates to see themselves reflected in her stories gained her the kind of popularity she otherwise would never have enjoyed. Anne Lamott's defines her life and who she is by her writing, and she knows that there are countless others out there who feel the same way. Bird by Bird is her gift to those others.

Bird by Bird is divided into five parts, each section geared to take the want-to-be writer another step or two toward that goal. Part One, "Writing," focuses on structure and on techniques designed to keep you coming back to the keyboard. She begins with the "short assignment" concept by which a writer focuses on one tiny part of the story he wants to tell rather than allowing the bigger picture to overwhelm him. From there, Lamott covers everything from plots, to the dangers of perfectionism (which she calls "the oppressor, the enemy of the people"), to the merits of using flawed and failing characters, to plot, and finally, to a section about recognizing "when you're done."

Parts Two and Three focus more on keeping yourself in "the writing frame of mind" and knowing where to look for "help along the way." Lamott describes the writer as someone who stands alone but decides to take a few notes in the meantime. She points out that a writer is always writing, that no matter what is happening around him, his job is to "see people as they really are," including himself. Lamott promises that simply giving yourself "permission" to begin writing will start you thinking like a writer, someone who sees material everywhere he turns.

The fourth part of the book addresses writer's voice, reasons to continue writing (to expose the unexposed), publication (if you are one of the very lucky ones), and the new fears that come with finally being published (such as the terror that you now have to prove that you can do it all again). Lamott calls the last part of Bird by Bird "The Last Class," and here she repeats much of what she tells her writing students in the classroom. Not all of them will become published writers, she tells them, but they should not let that stop them because being a writer will change their lives. Writing will "nourish the spirit," is "Intellectually quickening," and has "the potential to be as rich and enlivening as the priesthood." Above all else, she says, "Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul."

If you want to be part of the "noble tradition" of writing, published or not, Bird by Bird may just be the book to get you there. ( )
  SamSattler | Mar 7, 2016 |
Wonderful advice to writers; both intimate and sage. ( )
  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
I always enjoy Anne Lamott, and I enjoyed this one just as much! ( )
  TerriS | Jan 17, 2016 |
I've read this book before, I know I have, but I can't find a review I wrote about it anywhere. So I either didn't finish it or didn't review it. This time I remedied both.

     Anne Lamott has a special way of writing that sounds like you're having a conversation with her… a really eloquent, thought-out conversation. She seems very approachable and realistic and doesn't make writing out to be something only the truly gifted can do. She talks about her struggles and her jealousy and her doubts and how being a published writer hasn't made her life a fairy tale, like many people might think. It was incredibly refreshing to read. It doesn't hurt that she's hilarious in a sly, dark way.

     I read this book in two nights before bed, and with every page I wanted to jump up and start writing something, just to be putting words on the page. She's that good.

     Some favorite quotes:
     - "One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life as it lurches by and tramps around."
     - "Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die."
     - "Think of those times when you've read prose or poetry that is presented in such a way that you have a fleeting sense of being startled by beauty or insight, by a glimpse into someone's soul. All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least have some meaning for a moment." ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
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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.
…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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:35 -0400)

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"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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