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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 133 (next | show all)
I found it rather useless, and I wasn't impressed by the advice therein. The book comes highly recommended, but I didn't find anything to cull that I didn't know already. Maybe it's for very beginning writers, ones that are starting out for the first time and have first novel jitters. It seems like she takes a long time to say a simple message. Each chapter is a very big piece of bread that you've got to gnaw through to get to the meat inside. Maybe it's because I'm a straightforward guy, but I found that looking on the Internet was a better resource than this book. ( )
1 vote theWallflower | Feb 24, 2014 |
This was my February re-read. I wanted to include a non-fiction book or two in my list of favorites to re-read, and when I read this in 2009, I loved it. First, although I only write academic articles, I like the idea of writing stories or essays, something more personal. Writing seems somewhat mystical to me, and Lamott shares this view:

"Ever since I was a little kid, I thought that there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were little gods or sorcerers. All my life I've felt that there was something magical about people who could get into other people's minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves. And you know what? I still do."

Reading her views of the importance of books and telling stories is motivational to me. It makes me want to do more than just think about writing. It makes me want to write. But sometimes writing feels overwhelming to me, especially when Lamott reminds us that writing is about telling the truth, about digging deep, about writing our journeys and our pain. Where to begin in this endeavor? Luckily, Lamott has some advice about this too. Write about your memories. Write what you can see through a one-inch picture frame. Write a shitty first draft. She gives advice on developing characters and plot and dialogue, but perhaps even more important, she is very honest about how hard all of this is. She admits that there are voices in her head that tell her that she is never going to succeed, and she talks about how she's tried to silence those voices. She talks about jealousy and emptiness and the importance of support.

Lamott also reminds us that there are many reasons to write, and that getting published shouldn't be the only reason. She describes writing projects that were started as a present to someone else or that grew from a need that wasn't being filled by other books. However, the reason that resonated most with me was writing to find your voice. Lamott says:

"Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don't have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in - then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home."

But this book is about so much more than writing. Almost every piece of advice can be applied to life as well. When cautioning writers to avoid placing too much emphasis on publication, Lamott quotes the movie Cool Runnings: "If you're not enough before the gold medal, you won't be enough with it." Even the title of the book comes from advice that Lamott's father gave her brother after he procrastinated on a research project on birds. Although he had three months for the project, he was down to the wire and surrounded by research materials. That's when Lamott's dad sat down by him and told him, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." That's good advice for writing and life.

While the book is a must-read for anyone who wants to writer, I think that readers will appreciate this book as well. It is really an homage to the importance of the written word, as Lamott tells us in the book's final paragraph:

"Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feel the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a chance at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again." ( )
  porch_reader | Feb 23, 2014 |
Highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to write creatively. Lamott is hilarious and real and covers so many important elements of writing. This was a required read in my English writing class and the entire class love it! ( )
  KikiUnhinged | Feb 9, 2014 |
A wise old classic bit of writing advice from the early 1990s. The culture around books and publishing has changed since then, but the existential dilemma of why one might want to spill out ones stories for a world that is largely unappreciative remains relevant. Every chapter is charged with her confessional vignettes, usually about loss and defeat and wrongheadedness which she includes to serve as lessons to the naive student. I didn't want just to skim through this quickly but had to take my time to feel my way though the lessons she gives. ( )
  rmagahiz | Dec 21, 2013 |
I've actually been reading this slowly for several months, a chapter or two at a time. I loved it, and will reread, maybe dipping in to individual chapters. It's about writing, yes, but there's an awful lot that really applies to anything, any creative endeavor, and frankly, just living your life.

Very funny, very thought-provoking. ( )
1 vote srearley | Sep 21, 2013 |
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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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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)

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A step-by-step guide to writing and managing the writer's life covers each portion of a written project, addresses such concerns as writer's block and getting published, and offers awareness and survival tips

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