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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott

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8,191200699 (4.16)248
The author of five books, including the novels Hard Laughter, Rosie and Joe Jones, offers an "inspiring book about writing as a way of finding truth" (San Francisco Chronicle). "A reveille to get off our duffs and start writing now, while we still can".--Seattle Times. "Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd 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 brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, coffeymuse, aguanieve, justsayjoy, bsmashers, hakirkwood, luzdelsol, ElaineHowlin
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» See also 248 mentions

English (199)  Dutch (1)  All languages (200)
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
Really loved the beginning with the small assignments, shitty drafts. Would be best to read when you're in the process of creative writing. In the struggle. I found the latter parts about publishing not relevant to me and tedious. ( )
  bsmashers | Aug 1, 2020 |
Everyone and their teacup has told me this is one of the best books on writing ever, in the whole world. So I read it, and … it sort of isn’t? Like, Lamott captures the Life of the Creative very well, from nerves and procrastination to those random bouts of inspiration and the need to Work At It, and she does so with candour and warmth and some absolutely gorgeous (and hilarious) turns of phrase. But I was reading for the concrete advice she’d surely be giving out (I know all about the nerves already) and it’s mostly stuff like “index cards” and “research” and “base characters on your observations” which isn’t exactly new or earth-shattering. Perhaps it was in the early ‘90s, when this book came out? In the days before mass internet? So I wound up disappointed. That said, I can absolutely see this book being life-affirming for a lot of people—just people who aren’t me.

6.5/10 ( )
  NinjaMuse | Jul 26, 2020 |
Just finished re-reading. Honest, funny, encouraging, discouraging, and accurate advice about being a writer. ( )
  dmturner | Jun 29, 2020 |
Phenomenal.
Funny. Forthright. Tender. Snarky. Wonderful.

Of all the craft/advice books I have read, this one stands apart. The advice is thorough and well contextualized and written with careful thought. She writes like a mentor. She writes like a teacher. She writes like a friend.

So good. Recommend. ( )
  ErrantRuminant | Jun 18, 2020 |
*Bird by Bird* is Anne Lamott’s book of helpful nudges for writers or people who want to write but need a little help. And it’s an entertaining and well-written book with a couple of good tips and illustrations of those tips used to further one’s writing. But it’s also this catalogue of hypochondria and neuroticism that I just don’t understand. I think there was a kind of literary humor in the 90s and early 2000s that this is part of, where the self-deprecation, the running of metaphors of self-defeat and insinuations towards suicide and murder, played out in the mind of the author, staring daggers at you, someone else, herself in the mirror, all works at cross purposes to what they really want to do, which is motivate you to write. Maybe it’s because I’ve written a dissertation already, and maybe it’s because I’ve been in the throes of deep depression in the past, but I’ve never felt anything like the illustrations of suffering she describes from someone critiquing her work with constructive feedback, or an editor telling her to revise her work and resubmit it. And at one point I think these illustrations might be cute or encouraging for people who feel kind of bad, but then see this and think, “Well, at least I’m not like that lady!” then continue to write with a little more enthusiasm and vivacity. But I’m not really sure it’s for me. But it’s well-written and good! And literally everyone in the goddamn world talks about it, so I’m glad I’ve finally read it. But I think what I wanted to read was *Writing Down the Bones* by Natalie Goldberg or something, and got my wires crossed with this. All of these kinds of books fall into the category of “shit Merlin Mann read and talked about in the 2006-2013 era” for me.

All that said, the book does come together pretty well in the last third, and does access some core bits of the human soul’s relationship to expressing itself through writing and description. ( )
  jtth | May 4, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
A gift to all of us mortals who write or ever wanted to write...sidesplittingly funny, patiently wise and alternately cranky and kind--a reveille to get off our duffs and start writing now, while we still can.
added by ArrowStead | editSeattle Times
 
Superb writing advice...hilarious, helpful and provocative.
added by ArrowStead | editNew York Times Book Review
 
A warm, generous, and hilarious guide through the writer's world and its treacherous swamps.
added by ArrowStead | editLos Angeles Times
 
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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.
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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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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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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