Drop whatever you are doing and go read this book right now.
I’m actually serious, unless you are driving, in which case you should stop reading this right now, come to a complete stop at your local bookstore, and then purchase and read this book.
I’ve heard this book tossed around in creative circles I cannot count how many times, kind of like The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. And it is definitely worth a read. I might have built it up to be the end-all, cure-all to any and every writing problem that I have, which it is not, but the book definitely made me think about plot and structure and characters in a different light. Not to mention that Anne Lamott can somehow wrap spirituality, politics, and writing advice into the same eloquent sentence and leave you laughing at the end. She is a masterful writer.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is subtitled “Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” And it is. It’s a short primer on how to make a good story out of a story worth telling. At the same time, it teaches writers to live lives worth writing about, and to use their writing for the benefit of those around them – that’s where writing’s purpose really shines for Lamott. I have to agree.
There are several passages where Lamott reminds us why we aspire to write in the first place: a love of books.
“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you the excuse to do things, to go places and explore.” – p. xii
“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.” – p. 15
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.” – p. 25
“One line of dialogue that rings true reveals character in a way that pages of description can’t.” – p. 47
“We all know we’re going to die; what’s important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this.” – p. 51
“There must be movement.” – p. 59
“…that is the nature of most good writing: that you find out things as you go along.” – p. 71
“Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.” – p. 97
“Write toward vulnerability.” – p. 226
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They depend and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.” – p. 237
Should you read it? If you love the written word, yes.
Have you read Bird by Bird before? If so, what did you think? Are there any other books on writing you would suggest I tackle?