Bird by Bird : Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott
Google informs me that around 4,500 books are published each day across the world. This is daunting, by any account, for both reader and writer! How do we make what we write count, be read and make any kind of difference? For those with a limited budget where might our money be profitably spent?
I stumbled across Anne Lamott and was offered this book and Almost Everything : Notes on Hope by a well know distributor for a bargain price. Delivered the next day I marvelled at the commendations and set to on Bird by Bird. It is nothing short of brilliant – practical and profound – provocative and helpful – real and inspiring.
The book and its contents
This book was written to offer the reader a comprehensive overview about writing. Part One deals with straying points and how we might feel about our first words and sentences. Writers should fix a regular time and start small. Focus on the particular and mundane. Imperfection is part of the process and we should beware of the enemies of self-criticism and perfectionism. We are bidden to be patient and allow things to develop. Characters should find their voice helped by a loving narrator and good dialogue.
Part Two (The Writing Frame of Mind) builds upon Lamott’s gentle and illuminating spirituality as she bids us into an attentive reverence to people and our the world around and within. Good writing should be moral, passionate and driven by beliefs. Self knowledge and a liberation from jealousy are also explored here.
Part Three commands writers groups and the vital part that friendly and independent readers of drafts might have in the process. We are to be steady, disciplined, life celebrating and kind to self as memories emerge. She deals with writers block by gently appealing to faith and patience.
The book ends with a final part as writing is celebrated as gift and a means of healing and flourishing. We must face our selves and those parts of out lives that are uncomfortable and testing. Finding an authentic voice is the invitation in these pages. Lamott proves herself a trusty, wise and kind hearted guide. The care, the discipline, the heartfulness contribute to what is described as ‘the best life’ that is liberating and joyful.
This book is sheer gift – it is honest, practical, earthed with a lightness of touch – and peppered with a profound and magical spirituality. Here are my favourite bits of joyful encouragement
- Give us what you think life is about from your heart and view
- Becoming a good writer means writing about everything that happens to you and around you.
- “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.”
- Be real and honest
- Write regularly and often. Let the words emerge and your characters reveal themselves
- Ask people around you to help you with your writing. Enlist the help of others to make your words come alive.
- To become a better writer, you have to write more.
- Let your story emerge – don’t force it !