Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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Bird by Bird by Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I first read this book about three years ago as I was beginning to explore creative writing. I’ve been a lifelong reader, but never thought of myself as a writer. It’s been a profound experience to let my imagination go at the keyboard, to close my eyes as I type faster and faster, trying to keep up with the images flashing across the screen in my mind. I haven’t published anything, but the process of ‘making up stuff’ has been fascinating, enlivening and just plain fun.

The first writer’s conference I attended was a one-day event sponsored by a local writer’s association. There were several speakers and a hundred or so bright-eyed writers-to-be, all gathered on a sunny February morning in a cavernous room in the community center. We heard lectures on self-publishing, finding an agent, and how to use verbs more effectively.

During a break I wandered over to the table of books for sale (no surprise here!). Somehow in the midst of a hundred books on writing, Bird by Bird captured my attention. I was hooked after reading the first paragraph and bought it on the spot. I didn’t even write down the title so I could go home and order it on Amazon! I read the whole thing immediately. Then over the next several weeks I read it aloud to my wife, a few pages a night.

I love this book! It’s filled with Lamott’s quirky wisdom about writing – and life. She pulls no punches as she describes her struggles as a writer, a mom, a single woman. With her sardonic, self-deprecating humor, she raises low self-esteem to an art form. She demonstrates that somehow, after facing the worst about ourselves, it’s possible to pick up and keep going, wiser, more compassionate – and more creative.

Lamott encourages the newbie writer and the veteran alike, reminding us that everyone struggles as they sit down before a blank page or a blank screen. Even rich and famous published writers write shitty first drafts. Somehow I find this encouraging. This is a great book, a true friend.