Cart

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life PDF, ePub eBook


Hot Best Seller
Title: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Author: Anne Lamott
Publisher: Published September 1st 1995 by Anchor (first published January 1st 1994)
ISBN: 9780385480017
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

12543.Bird_by_Bird.pdf

In order to read or download eBook, you need to create FREE account.
eBook available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle versions


reward
How to download?
FREE registration for 1 month TRIAL Account.
DOWNLOAD as many books as you like (Personal use).
CANCEL the membership at ANY TIME if not satisfied.
Join Over 150.000 Happy Readers.


"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 t "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.'"With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer's life. From "Getting Started,' with "Short Assignments," through "Shitty First Drafts," "Character," "Plot," "Dialogue." all the way from "False Starts" to "How Do You Know When You're Done?" Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses "Writers Block," "Writing Groups," and "Publication." Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.

30 review for Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Where I got the book: purchased from Amazon. Perhaps I'm reading this, one of the writing community's most referred-to books, too late in life. Perhaps as a 20-year-old English major (which I never was) I would have loved this book. That could explain its popularity; it seems like the kind of writing-advice book that will be invariably set as a mandatory read in an MFA program. And that, in turn, could explain why a certain type of writer will, if asked to give writing advice, sound exactly like Where I got the book: purchased from Amazon. Perhaps I'm reading this, one of the writing community's most referred-to books, too late in life. Perhaps as a 20-year-old English major (which I never was) I would have loved this book. That could explain its popularity; it seems like the kind of writing-advice book that will be invariably set as a mandatory read in an MFA program. And that, in turn, could explain why a certain type of writer will, if asked to give writing advice, sound exactly like Anne Lamott. Maybe that's the problem: familiarity. I've heard so much of this before that it felt, well, stale. Write every day. Write from the heart. Find your own voice. Or maybe it's because I'm a 52-year-old recovering cynic and I'm a little less EMOTIONAL about the whole writing process. The notion of going on a 3-day alcohol (or later, eating) binge because your editor didn't like your book seems a bit excessive. Paying a therapist to help you get through your jealousy of your successful writer friends? Mmmmmkay. And Lamott's overwrought prose style made me think of Anne Rice, for some reason. Perhaps it's just because they're both called Anne. There were moments when I was moved and made to think about writing, so maybe one day I'll read Bird by Bird again and see if I can revise this first impression. It could be that the gems contained within the neurotic twaddle are what make the book shine in the memories of so many writers. But I ended up feeling that I'd learned a lot more about Anne Lamott than I'd learned about writing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. - Ernest Hemingway One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do—you can either type or kill yourself.” - Ann LamottI have not always felt much like writing. My writer’s block, if that is what it was, and not merely the tardy development of some creative muscles, occupied a large portion of my youth. Writing papers for scho There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. - Ernest Hemingway One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do—you can either type or kill yourself.” - Ann LamottI have not always felt much like writing. My writer’s block, if that is what it was, and not merely the tardy development of some creative muscles, occupied a large portion of my youth. Writing papers for school was not merely a chore but a horror. I am not sure when chips were first broken from that large mass but I do recall actually having some fun as a high school sophomore, in otherwise weak report on Midsummer Night’s Dream, describing the play as “Shakespearean Slapstick.“ Writing did get easier, but was never less than challenging. I have had occasion to write a bit of this and that in my working life, but my employers have all been consistent in finding no use at all for what writing ability I may possess. That impulse found its way into letters, and, for disparate periods, journaling. I managed to crank out a newsletter for the baseball and softball teams I managed, but those days are well back in the rearview. For the last seven years or so, I have been cranking out reviews here on Goodreads, and seem to have found a rhythm. This is by no means automatic. Every one of these things, well, with one or two exceptions, takes real effort. But it is possible. It is not horrifying. I am comfortable in knowing that when I read a book I can definitely produce a review, not always a good review, but at least one that is not completely embarrassing. At the very least, it is not cadged from the kid sitting in front of me. I have developed my own system, an approach to how to go about it. I could probably keep at this until my ashes are strewn, but there is a piece of me that would like to take on something larger, something less reactive. And so the horror returns. It is quite clear that just because a person can write book reviews, that does not mean a person can necessarily write an actual book. My inner child begins to whine, “but I wanna, waaaaah.” So here we are. No shortage of ideas, but massive supplies of anxiety, fear, ignorance, and self-doubt. What’s an aspiring writer to do? I may not be able to tamp down the emotional/psychological impediments, but I can try to address the ignorance piece. And one way to begin this process is to look for some advice. Which brings us to Anne Lamott. My Christmas list for 2014 included Stephen King’s On Writing and Santa came through, but his assistant, my elfin book goddess tossed in another, Lamott’s Bird by Bird (or as it might be referred to in some parts of my home borough, Boid by Boid) as well. I will be getting to King’s book in time. I had read BbB many years ago. My ambitions were different then. I expect there are times when certain books and certain readers converge. You can read a great book and not appreciate it because of where you might be in your life, but connect with it totally if you catch it at the right time. I may have incorporated a bit of this book way back when but now was definitely a propitious time for a refresher. Ann Lamott - image from Salon Of course, you will be at diverse stages in your writing interests, if you indeed have such urges at all. Not everyone does. There are many ways to transport the inner to the outer and writing may not offer the right means for most. But, as you are reading this, I expect there is a good chance you like to write, and maybe want to kick it up a notch. If so, Lamott’s book is a wonderful place to find a helping hand. In fact, it is a masterpiece of the genre, rich with wisdom, offering a host of ideas about how to get from not-writing to writing, in manageable, small pieces. One thing about this book is that it is very funny. I laughed out loud a lot while reading it, which can be awkward on crowded subway cars. Hopefully some of the techniques here will provide some bandages for the Hemingway quote at the top. She offers advice on how to get moving when you are stuck, provides cheerful, uplifting support for trying times, and permission to allow your creative process to work through its issues, up to a point. She lets us all know that Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts , which is very, very good to know. There are chapters on plot, character, and dialogue. Some explanation of technique. Lamott is echoing in print the writing class she teaches. The book is eminently quotable. My personal favorite, however second hand it might be, is E.L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Although this does ignore the obvious, that in making that trip one already is aware of the destination, and the route, still, it gives me hope. Maybe an inability to see the entire picture from the beginning does not condemn my efforts, or yours, to failure. One concern I have is that whatever I write, as seems to be the case for every idea I have ever had, has already been done, probably multiple times, and probably better. Lamott has a quote for this: Mark Twain said that Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before. Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning. All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions. If you are considering writing more generically, as opposed to having a specific project in mind, Lamott offers a wealth of assignments designed to get the wheels turning. And for those who dabble in analyzing books, there is plenty of intel on structure, and the dynamics of story-telling, all of which are relevant to reviewers of books. If you harbor no aspirations to writing, Bird by Bird offers a warm, illuminating and entertaining look at some of the things writers go through, provides some insight into the process of writing, and some of the challenges writers confront. If, howver, you are a writer, aspire to be a writer, or indulge in analysis of writing, Bird by Bird will feel like a kindly mentor, an older, wiser sibling maybe, who can take you by the hand and offer a gentle nudge in the right direction. Your writing may or may not soar, but Lamott’s excellent tutorial will certainly add a few feathers to your wings. Maybe those will be all you need to finally take that step away from the nest and let your creativity take flight. Review posted – 2/6/15 Publication date – 1994 =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s Twitter and FB pages. She does not appear to have her own site.

  3. 4 out of 5

    LeAnn

    I'm getting to the point where I've read a handful of books on the writing life by authors and I found this one to be particularly resonant at this point in my writing career. I actually found myself underlining things that Anne Lamott wrote and thinking, "I need to reread this so that I can absorb its message better." Perhaps the one thing that I'd like to pass along from her book that I wholeheartedly believe is her assertion that novels should have hope in them. I've spent several years thinki I'm getting to the point where I've read a handful of books on the writing life by authors and I found this one to be particularly resonant at this point in my writing career. I actually found myself underlining things that Anne Lamott wrote and thinking, "I need to reread this so that I can absorb its message better." Perhaps the one thing that I'd like to pass along from her book that I wholeheartedly believe is her assertion that novels should have hope in them. I've spent several years thinking about what turns me off in much of the "literary" fiction that I pick up and it's that most of it is bleak and hopeless, albeit written with exquisite feeling. As an adult and as a writer, I'm past the need for escapism that drove me to read as a child and young adult but I'm not past the need for hope. I really don't have any more time to waste on stories that make me feel depressed and dark at the end. Ms.Lamott also talks about writing as a spiritual activity and that I also believe in. If not done as a form of "candy making" (her phrase, not mine), then writing satisfies the soul like nothing else and that this is what matters most, not some illusory, nigh impossible, success in terms of publishing, fame, and fortune.

  4. 5 out of 5

    G

    Ugh. I used to write and then I took some time away from it, and someone suggested this book to me to inspire me. It did exactly the opposite. Lamott makes writing sound like passing a kidney stone, and it doesn't have to be that way.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    I love that she doesn’t shy away from the dark stuff, all the shitty feelings, angry rants, and suicidal episodes. I also love that she's funny. Not just amusing, but actually funny. I love that she curses. I love that she can be (and seems to enjoy being) spiteful and sarcastic. I love her and wish I could call her up when I'm feeling miserable. Luckily, I have this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Not new-agey, hippie-esque or nearly as self-help guide-like as I feared it would be when I started listening to the audiobook version as read by its author. Anne Lamott's monotone voice set off the "OH NO! SHE'S TRYING TO HYPNOTIZE ME!" alarms in my head, while her occasional allusions to faith had me ready with my own form of holy water (urine) to dash upon any self-righteous pulpits. However, Lamott is more grounded than that, and her dry delivery provides the perfect vehicle for her Tina Fey Not new-agey, hippie-esque or nearly as self-help guide-like as I feared it would be when I started listening to the audiobook version as read by its author. Anne Lamott's monotone voice set off the "OH NO! SHE'S TRYING TO HYPNOTIZE ME!" alarms in my head, while her occasional allusions to faith had me ready with my own form of holy water (urine) to dash upon any self-righteous pulpits. However, Lamott is more grounded than that, and her dry delivery provides the perfect vehicle for her Tina Fey-styled, kooky sense of humor. The meat and potatoes of Bird by Bird doesn't really say much that hasn't already been said about writing and how to get it done, but her advice is solid and she adds a nice touch with some highly personal stories. So I rate this a strong Much better than expected.5!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I recommend this book to everyone, writer or not. It is Anne's most classic, I think. You will laugh and maybe even cry. I pull it off the shelf now and then and read whatever page I land on -- and always find my way back to my own writing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    After so many books about how fun and easy writing can be, it's great to have a book that shows how painful and difficult it really is. Lamott puts a premium on discipline, the discipline of writing every day at a set time and trying hard to get the first draft out, no matter how bad it may be. This message may not be news to most, but along with the added info that neurosis and writing go hand in hand, Lamott is not here to inform, she's here to encourage. She's a real teacher, someone who isn' After so many books about how fun and easy writing can be, it's great to have a book that shows how painful and difficult it really is. Lamott puts a premium on discipline, the discipline of writing every day at a set time and trying hard to get the first draft out, no matter how bad it may be. This message may not be news to most, but along with the added info that neurosis and writing go hand in hand, Lamott is not here to inform, she's here to encourage. She's a real teacher, someone who isn't just trying to show you how to get to where you're going, but also to help you restart if you've missed a step. She's also very funny and a good writer to boot so the book was an absolute pleasure to read. Pick it up when you're feeling down (about writing.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

    This was fantastic, and I wrote a million notes. For example: I love the description of throwing rats in a jar and watching them scratch. This was a tool for the mind to silence distractors in your life that block you from writing. Also having an acre of land with a fence, and if people come in and mess it up-you simply kick them off. I like the idea of creating a book from characters, and letting the plot follow what the characters desire. I liked the idea of moving forward bird by bird, (readin This was fantastic, and I wrote a million notes. For example: I love the description of throwing rats in a jar and watching them scratch. This was a tool for the mind to silence distractors in your life that block you from writing. Also having an acre of land with a fence, and if people come in and mess it up-you simply kick them off. I like the idea of creating a book from characters, and letting the plot follow what the characters desire. I liked the idea of moving forward bird by bird, (reading the book will explain what this means), and the informal prose. Other great advice is not just researching subjects you know nothing about, like gardening for example, but calling local nurseries and spending time with gardeners. Asking questions, like: "what would the fruit be doing? Would there be leaves?" Calling friends with antique furniture, and letting them describe a lamp to you, taking your articulate friends with you to a restaurant, and writing down the funny things they say and descriptions they give. Also using movies for settings-trying to describe the scene, city, landscape with as much detail as possible. Advice for Characters: when your out in the world listen to people talking, play with what you hear, edit it in your minds eye and see how it would look on a page. Also-you should be able to identify a character by what he or she says. It's a given that each should sound different, look different, and have different backgrounds and mannerisms-but this simple advice hit home b/c I thought, "if I didn't write-he said/she said-after this quote, would they know it was from this character?" Also, ABDCE, for Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending. You begin with action that is compelling enough to draw us in, background to know who these people are, what happened before the story began, then you develop these people so you know what they care most about. The plot-drama, actions, tension-come out of that. Move them along-til it comes together in a climax, after which things are different for the characters in some real way, and then the ending-what is our sense of who these people are now. What are they left with and what does that mean? I loved the description of rewriting and tucking the octopus in bed. The legs that keep popping out from the bed sheets, and just when you think you have them tucked in, another pops out. I'm also interested in reading E.M. Forster and John Gardner's advice on plot which Lamott mentions as great reads and thinking about joining a writing group. And...ok-(I love so many things about this book!)-the advice on having someone read your first drafts was really good-it helps to know if you're on the right path. And I liked the advice on how to find people for writing groups and to help you edit. How to approach them, and how to laugh at the rejection you might encounter meeting them in a writing class and they perhaps, not wanting to help you:) One of the life lesson tips I loved was on page 170, about not wasting your time on people who doesn't respond to you with kindness and respect, or wasting your time with people who make you hold you breath. "You can't fill up when your holding your breath, and writing is about filling up, when you're empty. Letting images, and ideas, and smells run like water." I'm laughed at the beginning writer things-the writing about yourself, and making yourself the main character and trying to throw EVERYTHING in your first book, short story, whatever. Yup-I'm doing all of that, and at least I'm learning I'm not alone:) Letters is an amazing idea as well-writing a part of your history-a part of a characters history-in the form of a letter-that the informality might just free you from the tyranny of perfectionism, and even address it to someone. I loved this idea and I can see how several of my favorite articles or essays could have been written using this method-at least as a first draft or to brainstorm. Ok-just adding to this again, I like the idea of carrying an index card and pen in your back pocket when you walk your dogs, and that the idea of writers block is really-being empty-and that you need to write 300 words on anything for however many days until it passes. That being out with nature-living life like it was your last day and re-filling your imagination can fill back up. "Any of the things you love to do will fill you with observations, flavors, visions, ideas, and memories." Also-thinking of what you want to say and if anything else has been written on the subject. But tell your story-or someone else's-free someone from bondage, or risk freeing yourself. I loved the quote by Toni Morrison on p. 193 that Lamott uses, "The function of freedom is to free someone else." On p. 198 Lamott says, "We write the unexposed. If there is a door in a castle you've been told not to go through you must." She says that you need to discover your true voice, and you can't do that if you think your parents are reading over your shoulder. Think about who your writing for-dedicate it to your favorite author as a gift to give back to them for influencing you. I'm also wrote down the name of a book Lamott talks about called Intimations of Mortality that I think I need to read, and remember to suggest to anyone dealing with cancer-it sounds wonderful. And...I love the idea of writing a present for someone. The last note I'm going to add that really impacted me was Lamott message not to worry about what people think of you, but to worry about not finishing your writing. Good advice.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    I read this to try to understand and learn the craft of writing. With great apprehension, I’m trying to figure out if this is something I want to do. I’ve been a musician and songwriter for many years, so it’s not like it’s a stretch. I think I’m mostly intimidated by the sheer volume of work by so many great writers before me, writers that have given their entire lives to the craft and some sacrificing even more. What do I have to add? Who am I to swagger into the Sistine Chapel readied with pa I read this to try to understand and learn the craft of writing. With great apprehension, I’m trying to figure out if this is something I want to do. I’ve been a musician and songwriter for many years, so it’s not like it’s a stretch. I think I’m mostly intimidated by the sheer volume of work by so many great writers before me, writers that have given their entire lives to the craft and some sacrificing even more. What do I have to add? Who am I to swagger into the Sistine Chapel readied with paint? Anne Lamott’s book is a necessary book for someone like me. She tells you to do it. Despite your assumptions or the assurances you may expect, none of it will matter in the end. In order to write, you have to write and practice writing. It’s that simple. Here’s a few other things I learned, which I’m sure I’ll have to go back to again and again: • Write every day. Ok, that seems easy enough. I’m already doing that, anyhow. • Observe life and write it down. This also seems easy, but not something I’ve been in the habit of doing. That’ll be my first and foremost challenge. • Don’t expect to get published or earn fame, because you probably won’t. This is actually reassuring to me. I don’t want that thought hovering over me or preventing the truth from emerging. For these ideas alone, this book has been very helpful and encouraged me to take the leap. Towards the end, I was wondering how I could summarize the main theme of this almost emancipating guidebook, but then Lamott does it for me in the last chapter: “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for the reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of. Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done. If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward your vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.” I love when the act of telling the truth is foremost, because that is something we can all do, right?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    A surprisingly hysterical book about writing and, as the title implies, life. The hype surrounding Lamott's book is definitely well-earned and I can't wait to read more of her work. Much of her advice on writing is practical and no-nonsense as she addresses the difficulties of writing and getting published. If I had one complaint it would be that I wasn't as inspired to write by the end of the book as I was to be Anne's (see? I'm already calling her by her first name as if I know her) friend. I A surprisingly hysterical book about writing and, as the title implies, life. The hype surrounding Lamott's book is definitely well-earned and I can't wait to read more of her work. Much of her advice on writing is practical and no-nonsense as she addresses the difficulties of writing and getting published. If I had one complaint it would be that I wasn't as inspired to write by the end of the book as I was to be Anne's (see? I'm already calling her by her first name as if I know her) friend. I definitely appreciated her twisted and unusual sense of humor. I often laughed out loud, not something I was expecting during chapters about libel, editing, publishing, and the other mundane parts of the writer's world. Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    Swell Songs Sung So Well This little book sings so sweetly. You've probably read in other books some version of the optimism, pointers and warnings that are covered here. Yet, you've probably not read one as practical or as well-written as this. Anne Lamott's book is a virtuosic "Best of" LP, for writers and other creative artists, from which one may choose among many tracks of anecdotes, experience and hope. It's something you can pull out from time to time to put you on the right track, get you Swell Songs Sung So Well This little book sings so sweetly. You've probably read in other books some version of the optimism, pointers and warnings that are covered here. Yet, you've probably not read one as practical or as well-written as this. Anne Lamott's book is a virtuosic "Best of" LP, for writers and other creative artists, from which one may choose among many tracks of anecdotes, experience and hope. It's something you can pull out from time to time to put you on the right track, get you unstuck and, in all cases, on to conjuring magic from your imagination onto the blank screen or sheet of paper sitting in front of you. I highly recommend this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    John Woodington

    I didn't enjoy this book, simply because it didn't inspire me to write. I got the strong impression that Ms. Lamott has horrible self-esteem issues, and her overusage of self-deprecating humor really wore on me after the first chapter or two. She didn't give the reader the inspiration to go out and achieve the greatest thing possible in their writing lives, but instead said basically "it's okay to suck, and you shouldn't worry about never getting better." Maybe that's a message some people need I didn't enjoy this book, simply because it didn't inspire me to write. I got the strong impression that Ms. Lamott has horrible self-esteem issues, and her overusage of self-deprecating humor really wore on me after the first chapter or two. She didn't give the reader the inspiration to go out and achieve the greatest thing possible in their writing lives, but instead said basically "it's okay to suck, and you shouldn't worry about never getting better." Maybe that's a message some people need to hear, but for me, it didn't do it. Her actual writing advice centered around one uniquely-stated idea, her acceptance of "sh*tty first drafts." These first drafts are very important, and I often see them as getting the clay down on the counter in order to begin the real molding of the story. If she had said that only her first drafts were "sh*tty" then I maybe could've overlooked her self-hatred, but when she said that draft upon draft upon draft was terrible, and that she spent numerous days consoling herself like a sensitive person after a disagreeable breakup, well at that point the book became too much of a sob story for me to give it any respect.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    Bird By Bird is less a book about writing techniques and more a writer speaking to other writers and telling them that it's okay. All of it. All their neuroses and hang ups and setbacks. It's okay. Just take it word by word (bird by bird). I don't think I learned much from it, but just having someone say it's okay to me for two hundred and thirty-seven pages was good. There is some good advice in there about how to start writing a scene you don't know about, how to let your characters develop, h Bird By Bird is less a book about writing techniques and more a writer speaking to other writers and telling them that it's okay. All of it. All their neuroses and hang ups and setbacks. It's okay. Just take it word by word (bird by bird). I don't think I learned much from it, but just having someone say it's okay to me for two hundred and thirty-seven pages was good. There is some good advice in there about how to start writing a scene you don't know about, how to let your characters develop, how to deal with criticism, how to pull ideas out of the melting pot that is memory. There's a piece of advice that I just love and might have to try some day: write a book for your favourite author. I don't know what I'll write for Susan Cooper or Ursula Le Guin or Guy Gavriel Kay, but I know I want to try writing for them. Anne Lamott writes understandingly, in a way that will make you smile wryly and -- in places -- probably make you want to cry. It may not teach you anything beyond it's okay, and you might find that even that you know, but her writing is lovely and worth reading anyway. I've never read any of her novels, but I definitely recommend reading this.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brian Foley

    when i finished my undergrad, i received 5 copies of this book. I eventually sold them all for swill.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I don’t necessarily aspire to write fiction, but I loved this book all the same. Along with step-by-step advice on dialogue, plot, characterization, etc., it has Lamott’s trademark wry observations about living life somewhere between faith and failure. If you feel compelled to write, write, Lamott urges; “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it.” Accept that you’ll produce “really shitty first drafts,” and move on from there. At its w I don’t necessarily aspire to write fiction, but I loved this book all the same. Along with step-by-step advice on dialogue, plot, characterization, etc., it has Lamott’s trademark wry observations about living life somewhere between faith and failure. If you feel compelled to write, write, Lamott urges; “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it.” Accept that you’ll produce “really shitty first drafts,” and move on from there. At its worst, writing is confidence-crushing torment. At its best, writing is like a sacred duty to convey a message of hope and contribute to a better world. She’s not advocating polemic or agenda-driven fiction, but voices against nihilism: There’s no point in writing hopeless novels. 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. ... To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be a part of the solution, to understand a little about life and pass this on. She characterizes writing as a form of meditation: a means of both understanding the self and transcending it. “To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass—seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one.” • “writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.” • “hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.” • “John Gardner wrote that the writer is creating a dream into which he or she invites the reader, and that the dream must be vivid and continuous.” Lamott’s strongest warning is against the siren call of publishing: “I tell you, if what you have in mind is fame and fortune, publication is going to drive you crazy.” Writing must be its own reward, so fulfilling that it doesn’t matter what kind of reviews or advances you get. “No matter what happens in terms of fame and fortune, dedication to writing is a marching-step forward from where you were before, when you didn’t care about reaching out to the world, when you weren’t hoping to contribute, when you were just standing there doing some job into which you had fallen. ... Even if you never publish a word, you have something important to pour yourself into.” My apologies for all the long excerpts, but this is a very quotable book. I’ll finish with her summation of the writing life and the literary community: There are a lot of us, some published, some not, who think the literary life is the loveliest one possible, this life of reading and writing and corresponding. We think this life is nearly ideal. It is spiritually invigorating ... It is intellectually quickening. One can find in writing a perfect focus for life. It offers challenge and delight and agony and commitment. We see our work as a vocation, with the potential to be as rich and enlivening as the priesthood. As a writer, one will have over the years many experiences that stimulate and nourish the spirit. These will be quiet and deep inside, however, unaccompanied by thunder or tremulous angels. Essential reading for any writer.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Bird by Bird is my new bible. Not just for writing, but for life - it is my favorite work of nonfiction so far. Stephen King's On Writing impressed me, but Anne Lamott's book had me tearing up and laughing at the same time. Her self-deprecating sense of humor and her harsh yet realistic approach to writing won me over. If I could, I would throw this book at every student at my college studying English or Creative Writing. Lamott tackles topics ranging from the neurotic mentality of writing to th Bird by Bird is my new bible. Not just for writing, but for life - it is my favorite work of nonfiction so far. Stephen King's On Writing impressed me, but Anne Lamott's book had me tearing up and laughing at the same time. Her self-deprecating sense of humor and her harsh yet realistic approach to writing won me over. If I could, I would throw this book at every student at my college studying English or Creative Writing. Lamott tackles topics ranging from the neurotic mentality of writing to the woes and joys of publishing; I would recommend Bird by Bird to literally everyone, especially to those who possess even a remote interest in the writing life. Here are a couple of passages that portray her voice and wisdom, the first pertaining to books and the second concerning perfectionism: "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." "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it." Read this book. You will not regret it. *review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    Anne Lamott has made me finally feel like it is all going to be okay! This is less of an instructional guide to the craft of writing and more of an extended pep-talk about living life creatively. This book will not necessarily guide you in how to create stellar characters or how to merge your sub-plot with your main plot-line, but it will aid you in going into your writing endeavors with a more sound mind and a better expectation of what the creative process holds. It is profound, anecdotal and f Anne Lamott has made me finally feel like it is all going to be okay! This is less of an instructional guide to the craft of writing and more of an extended pep-talk about living life creatively. This book will not necessarily guide you in how to create stellar characters or how to merge your sub-plot with your main plot-line, but it will aid you in going into your writing endeavors with a more sound mind and a better expectation of what the creative process holds. It is profound, anecdotal and full of wry observations about life being somewhere between faith and failure. Perfectionism is seen as the root of all evil and kudos is paid to "the shitty first draft". Her conversational, witty and engaging tone has allowed me to believe in myself whilst dually giving the hard facts about life as a writer. She doesn't sugar-coat and she doesn't dress anything up, but she does give hope and she does urge every writer-to-be to own their own voice and to strive for the stories within themselves. This is a must-read for both amateur and professional writers, as well as all those with an interest in creative living.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    This book offered an interesting perspective on life and writing fiction. She was preaching to the converted, however; didn't really open my eyes to anything I wouldn't expect/already know. I happen to think jealousy is the ugliest human emotion. Kudos to her for shamelessly admitting to her shortcomings, but I honestly wanted to close the book during this chapter. I'm glad I toughed it out though because it was decent well-laid out writing advice, nonetheless. Can't hurt for beginners. Lamott c This book offered an interesting perspective on life and writing fiction. She was preaching to the converted, however; didn't really open my eyes to anything I wouldn't expect/already know. I happen to think jealousy is the ugliest human emotion. Kudos to her for shamelessly admitting to her shortcomings, but I honestly wanted to close the book during this chapter. I'm glad I toughed it out though because it was decent well-laid out writing advice, nonetheless. Can't hurt for beginners. Lamott comes off as the kind of girl that talks a LOT, almost too much. She seems quite smug with her writing and tries to pass it off as humble. I don't fall for it, sorry. I'm almost inclined to say it was a mistake to reveal all her secrets. I'm not too fond of her self-proclaimed sense of humor... But I admire her ballsiness in teaching what she knows best.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    This is an enjoyable read and a lovely book. Anne Lamott is a very engaging writer and she is very funny, honest, and heartfelt. Although I don’t desire to be a writer, like most readers I’ve wanted to be a writer at times in my life. I took to heart her advice that at some point one has to decide whether to be a reader or a writer, a choice I’d made but it solidified my decision for me. The “bird by bird” philosophy espoused in this book can apply to all endeavors, not just the one of writing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karrar

    It is a great book . Works like guideline and a plan for new writers . It is also inspiring. Especially the "last class" chapter . It was a nice chapter from a great book

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I can see why this is a popular book. Lamott is funny, self-deprecating, and encouraging even in the face of cold, hard realities. She means what she says in the title, too. It really does set out to be instructions on writing and life. There are undoubtedly better books covering particulars of the craft, but this may be one of the best at construing a writer’s perspective. I liked her advice about making incremental progress (the meaning of “bird by bird”), about getting something/anything down I can see why this is a popular book. Lamott is funny, self-deprecating, and encouraging even in the face of cold, hard realities. She means what she says in the title, too. It really does set out to be instructions on writing and life. There are undoubtedly better books covering particulars of the craft, but this may be one of the best at construing a writer’s perspective. I liked her advice about making incremental progress (the meaning of “bird by bird”), about getting something/anything down that can then be refined in later drafts, and about finding characters, plot, voice, and truth from distinct parts of yourself. She also made clear how writing can make you a more appreciative reader. Another bit of advice Lamott offered rang true: readers want to like the storyteller. I would say she achieved most of that goal herself as she laid out the story of her own literary life. Every once in a while it seemed like she had favorite anecdotes she shoehorned into the narrative that didn’t quite fit, but that’s a small quibble. A slightly bigger gripe from my own point of view was that there were times where it felt like she was leading a touchy-feely seminar on self-actualization. Having never been to one, I’m only guessing here, but it seemed like a peculiarity we might expect from certain kinds of Californians. I didn’t allow this to detract from the experience, though. Nor should you if you’re looking for writing/life instruction of a semi-practical, semi-inspirational sort.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hanna

    I deeply dislike Anne Lammott and all her idiotic statements on writing. This book was torture to read and I cannot figure out how my English teacher could have possibly assigned it. This woman, with all her lengthy words, does not seem to have any sort of understanding about writing at all. I'll even use a quote from her own book to explain exactly why this book was so awful: "One thing I haven't told you about my famous short story 'Arnold' is that besides sending it off every few months to my f I deeply dislike Anne Lammott and all her idiotic statements on writing. This book was torture to read and I cannot figure out how my English teacher could have possibly assigned it. This woman, with all her lengthy words, does not seem to have any sort of understanding about writing at all. I'll even use a quote from her own book to explain exactly why this book was so awful: "One thing I haven't told you about my famous short story 'Arnold' is that besides sending it off every few months to my father's agent, I also send it off to an important magazine editor. He sent it back with the following note: 'You have made the mistake of thinking that everything that has happened to you is interesting.'" I think so too, Lammott- you have made the mistake of thinking that everything feeling of frustration that you get from your writing experience, is absolutely enlightening, surreal and makes you obviously, a much more authentic writer than everyone else- causing you to write this book and expecting tunnels of praise for it. I'm so happy she got famous because otherwise, she would probably been dead at least ten years from all those 'writer' activities that she so eagerly partook in (i.e, drinking, self-deprecation, drugs, depression, self loathing, vanity, jealousy etc etc). Drinking and self deprecation cannot make you a writer. It does however, make you look like a silly and very devoted poser. BLAH.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Onaiza Khan

    This book is like a friend to me. Anne Lamott advises and encourages towards writing as a way of life. She helps the reader understand the various aspects of writing and also in introspecting and finding one's own voice. This is a book that I'm gonna read over and over again. I love it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    OK, now I get it. I finally understand why so many people LOVE Anne Lamott. It's because of this book, because she is self-deprecating, funny and full of compassionate advice in this book. She still gets on my nerves, though, especially when she starts talking about God--and she mentions God quite a bit--and her church and her priest friends. She also has an upper-class life, which always rubs me the wrong way when I pick up on that in a writer's memoir. And when I say "upper-class," I mean the ed OK, now I get it. I finally understand why so many people LOVE Anne Lamott. It's because of this book, because she is self-deprecating, funny and full of compassionate advice in this book. She still gets on my nerves, though, especially when she starts talking about God--and she mentions God quite a bit--and her church and her priest friends. She also has an upper-class life, which always rubs me the wrong way when I pick up on that in a writer's memoir. And when I say "upper-class," I mean the educated kind; the kind where her father was a Yale-educated, published author and encouraged her to be one too, and she has friends she can stay with for a month in Cambridge on a moment's notice, etc. Now, I'm aware that one can't help being born into favorable conditions just as one can't help being born into unfavorable ones, and it seems a bit unfair to hold that against someone. But I'm envious, and I can't help it. That's all. We're just from different planets, and sometimes I wonder what life is like on her planet, and I have no earthly idea how to get there, and even if I did, I wouldn't survive. So. I still don't LOVE Anne Lamott, but I like her OK now. And this was a good book, with solid, heartfelt advice.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    So with this one I'm going against the grain. I think I understand why this is a writing classic. It has practical advice with a lot of examples and metaphors and analogies to help you understand it. However, it didn't teach me anything. Maybe the lessons it imparts have become so ingrained that the original becomes superfluous. The writing seemed overwritten to me. The many examples and metaphors and analogies really started to irk me. Tell me in the simplest way. I don't need you to write me m So with this one I'm going against the grain. I think I understand why this is a writing classic. It has practical advice with a lot of examples and metaphors and analogies to help you understand it. However, it didn't teach me anything. Maybe the lessons it imparts have become so ingrained that the original becomes superfluous. The writing seemed overwritten to me. The many examples and metaphors and analogies really started to irk me. Tell me in the simplest way. I don't need you to write me multiple 500 word sentences to tell me something that should take 10 words. Something about the voice didn't seem natural to me. I understand that all writers put on a persona when talking about their private lives to find the necessary detachment that allows them to write about themselves, but I think Lamott might have two personas, the writer and the teacher. It felt like she was a first-grade teacher trying to teach me my letters. I felt condescended to. It seemed like most of the earlier chapters were her usual spiel she would impart in her writing classes. So maybe she felt like she had to jazz them up somehow, hence all the overwriting. I don't doubt that she's a good writer. I liked a lot of the personal stuff. It's just that anytime she would get to something to do with writing I would cringe. I felt like it was all some variation on: "Get off your fat ass and write. It will all fall into place after that."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zenmoon

    There was a time when I used to consume books like this in the hope that I might learn to write through osmosis. What saves this from being just another writing guide is Anne Lamott’s irreverent humour, and self-deprecation. I loved lines like: ‘I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this’ . For the most part, however, it's hard to even quote her, since she takes off on long comedic runs of writing tuition. The book is pretty well pitched at the beginning writer bu There was a time when I used to consume books like this in the hope that I might learn to write through osmosis. What saves this from being just another writing guide is Anne Lamott’s irreverent humour, and self-deprecation. I loved lines like: ‘I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this’ . For the most part, however, it's hard to even quote her, since she takes off on long comedic runs of writing tuition. The book is pretty well pitched at the beginning writer but there are a few writing fundamentals which are given a unique spin for all. Lovely funny book that has the potential to make you take the whole business of writing just a little less preciously.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    As I am not an aspiring novelist or creative writer of any kind it seems only fair to admit upfront that I might not exactly be Lamott's ideal audience, though I am interested in other forms of writing and hey, the title itself claims that this is as much about "life" as "writing," right? And there were sections and even whole chapters that I will continue to carry with me, that inspired me or made me pause for a moment in consideration or even made me guffaw out loud (no easy feat). I took this As I am not an aspiring novelist or creative writer of any kind it seems only fair to admit upfront that I might not exactly be Lamott's ideal audience, though I am interested in other forms of writing and hey, the title itself claims that this is as much about "life" as "writing," right? And there were sections and even whole chapters that I will continue to carry with me, that inspired me or made me pause for a moment in consideration or even made me guffaw out loud (no easy feat). I took this up in the first place after a conversation with a cousin of mine, a creative writing teacher and accomplished writer in her own right, and confided some of the problems I faced while writing my thesis. She told me Lamott's anecdote that gives this text its name, and recommended I give it a look when I have a chance. And she was absolutely right—it was exactly the advice I could have used to maintain some kind of perspective during the thesis-writing process. So it definitely wasn't the content that was the problem here—I quickly skimmed the chapters that seemed less applicable for me and gave my full attention to sections that were relevant to my own situation. So I'll just put it bluntly: I just don't like Lamott's writing style. AT ALL. In fact, it's the type of writing style that I generally despise and avoid as much as possible—kind of banter-y and hyper self-aware, peppered with lots of pop culture references that are instantly dated, and relentlessly (and I mean relentlessly) self-deprecating. Not that I can't see the massive appeal of this approach—it creates an almost instantaneous sense of intimacy, as if the author has been your best friend for years and years and years and all of this is personal advice being told to you during a lengthy conversation on the phone. In other words, it's exactly the style a bazillion creative writing students strive to replicate in their own work, which is why I now understand why Lamott's name was always mentioned in hushed, almost reverential tones in the creative writing department back when I was an undergrad. I have mentioned elsewhere my distaste for this type of writing, and to be fair, Lamott is certainly the best—and most readable—writer of this style I have ever come across. It's just that reading this took me back almost instantly to all of the mundane pieces that were dutifully workshopped in every creative writing classes I have ever taken (of which my own contributions were just as mundane, I'll be the first to admit) and which has been seeping with increasing frequency into more official venues (Salon.com, Huffington Post, etc), much to my dismay. So my apologies to Ms. Lamott—in many ways I'm faulting her writing not on its own merits but on the pale imitations that she helped inspire, but in the end it was just something I could never quite manage to get around.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    5/31/09: This may be the single best book I have ever read in my entire life. It is helping me get my work done, on a daily basis; it helped me see where I do fit in life (my niche); and it helped me see how utterly not alone I am. It's a wonderful thing. All of which I had inklings of prior to reading this book, but Lamott confirmed it. Validation is such a sweet quality. If you want to understand me, read this book, and then you will. Seriously. I usually write favorite quotations from a book in a 5/31/09: This may be the single best book I have ever read in my entire life. It is helping me get my work done, on a daily basis; it helped me see where I do fit in life (my niche); and it helped me see how utterly not alone I am. It's a wonderful thing. All of which I had inklings of prior to reading this book, but Lamott confirmed it. Validation is such a sweet quality. If you want to understand me, read this book, and then you will. Seriously. I usually write favorite quotations from a book in a journal I keep with me, but this one had too many for that; so I switched to typing them. I have 15 typed pages of favorite quotes. I am considering printing out the best quotes in sign form and taping them up to my office walls. That's how inspirational I find them. In fact, that is a fabulous idea; and I fully plan to do it, just as soon as I get done gloating about how much I loved this book. I would say this is my new "bible" if that would not be offensive to people. Thank you, Laurie, for the recommendation. This is why it's important to share your favorite books with people. This is why paying attention to what others are reading is important. My friends most of all taught me this, and for that I am grateful. Laurie is my most literary friend, who has gifted me with books that have always changed my world for the better. Now I just need to figure out how to get a letter of thanks to Anne Lamott. She is a kindred spirit. She is fabulous. I can't wait to read all of her books. Maybe someday she'll read my books too. I can't wait. 5/6: This book is incredible. I want to just devour it, but I also want to write down so many things I have read in it, to not ever forget them. So far I'm putting into practice her suggestions with what I feel are good results. Specifically, to write what I know, starting with writing down all my childhood memories ("Remember you own what happened to you," Lamott says.); also to write every day at approximately the same time, no matter what. (Mornings work better for me, fresh mind, the craziness of the day not yet pressing in on me. So I have been writing at 8 in the morning, every day, with good results, already, I feel.) *** Here are some of my favorite quotes so far: “Think of a fine painter attempting to capture an inner vision, beginning with one corner of the canvas, painting what he thinks should be there, not quite pulling it off, covering it over with white paint, and trying again, each time finding out what his painting isn’t, until finally he finds out what it is. “And when you do find out what one corner of your vision is, you’re off and running. And it really is like running. It always reminds of the last lines of Rabbit, Run: ‘his heels hitting heavily on the pavement at first with an effortless gathering out of a kind of sweet panic growing lighter and quicker and quieter, he runs. Ah: runs. Runs.’” ~p. 9, 10 "My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean. Aren't you?" ~p. 15 *** And then there is this fabulous poem she includes in her book, written by Phillip Lopate. It's an example of how you can use your paranoia, your germaphobia, or whatever mental issues you are dealing with, to your benefit. I think it's fantastic; here it is: We who are your closest friends feel the time has come to tell you that every Thursday we have been meeting, as a group, to devise ways to keep you in perpetual uncertainty frustration discontent and torture by neither loving you as much as you want nor cutting you adrift. Your analyst is in on it, plus your boyfriend and your ex-husband; and we have pledged to disappoint you as long as you need us. In announcing our association we realize we have placed in your hands a possible antidote against uncertainty indeed against ourselves. But since our Thursday nights have brought us to a community of purpose rare in itself with you as the natural center, we feel hopeful you will continue to make unreasonable demands for affection if not as a consequence of your disastrous personality then for the good of the collective. *** This book so far is a breath of fresh air. I'm reading all the things I have felt so very deeply my entire life, and it is validating. It gives me hope that I can actually do this, that I can actually be a successful, a real, writer. More to come, I am sure! I am only on page 17. 4/15: I want to write a book. I attempt to work on this project, but I do not get very far. My friend Laurie is a writer (I'm still an aspiring one) and she recommended this book. I just ordered it from the library and am excited to read my first book on writing. I am sure I'll read many more before I do achieve my goal to write my own book. It's a step forward, a good starting point. I am excited.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Anne Lamott is both wise and self-deprecating. She approaches writing with humor and a hearty dose of practicality. I loved how she blends life lessons with writing advice. No wonder this is a classic! Now why did I wait so long to read it? I enjoyed this on audio, but will reread in my print copy to make notations. Full review at TheBibliophage.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In order to read or download eBook, you need to create FREE account.
eBook available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle versions



Loading...