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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life 1st Edition

965 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0385480017
ISBN-10: 0385480016
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Editorial Reviews Review

Think you've got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn't afraid to help you let it out. She'll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott's witty take on the reality of a writer's life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer's block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.

From Publishers Weekly

Lamott's ( Operating Instructions ) miscellany of guidance and reflection should appeal to writers struggling with demons large and slight. Among the pearls she offers is to start small, as their father once advised her 10-year-old brother, who was agonizing over a book report on birds: "Just take it bird by bird." Lamott's suggestion on the craft of fiction is down-to-earth: worry about the characters, not the plot. But she's even better on psychological questions. She has learned that writing is more rewarding than publication, but that even writing's rewards may not lead to contentment. As a former "Leona Helmsley of jealousy," she's come to will herself past pettiness and to fight writer's block by living "as if I am dying." She counsels writers to form support groups and wisely observes that, even if your audience is small, "to have written your version is an honorable thing."
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385480016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385480017
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (965 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne Lamott is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Grace (Eventually), Plan B, Traveling Mercies, and Operating Instructions, as well as seven novels, including Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. She is a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

610 of 637 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson on December 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is not a how-to book. This is not a New Age manual for freeing your creativity in ethereal ways. This is Anne Lamott, for heaven's sake...and that means it's funny! As in, laugh- till-you-can't-read-the-words-through-the-tears-in-your-eyes funny. (Some call this therapy, and I'm inclined to agree.)
Though aimed at writers, this book is full of sage advice and razor-edged honesty for the average joe. If you're a writer--and I claim to be one--it's more than a few anecdotes and good advice; it's a lifeline in the thrashing seas of rough-draftdom, a foothold on the sands of jealousy and vain ambition. Anne makes it clear that writing must be pursued for something other than mere publication. (Though, to be honest, I know she's just trying to let the majority of us down easy.) Writing is about letting go, growing, facing truths, and holding on.
I'm hooked on Lamott. She slaps me in the face with her startling revelations, nudges me in the ribs with her unpredictable humor, and prods my frozen little writer's hands back into action with warm compassion. This book won't solve the mechanical aspects of my writing, or lead me on the path of structural excellence, but it will spark my creativity, free my characters to be true to themselves, and, ultimately, shake me from my doldrums back into the writing mode.
In a society addicted to mindless facts and information, "Bird by Bird" reminds us--writers or otherwise--that it's all about heart. Heart and mind and soul dancing together, even if they step all over each other's feet.
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234 of 243 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
If there's a better book to read when you're doubting yourselfand your writing ability, I don't know what it is. IF YOU WANT TOWRITE by Brenda Ueland may be more profound, but it's not as funny... I don't think Lamott copied Ueland at all. Both books are wonders, Ueland's more spiritual or mystical--i.e. how to express your own unique self and write your truth--and Lamott's more worldy--how to get your rear in gear and start producing copy. Lamott's chapter on crumby first drafts lets you know you must start somewhere and can't do that if you're constantly criticizng and editing yourself. And she is so right--once you have a beginning, you can make it better..and better...and better. She doesn't really tell you how to do that in very specific terms, but for that there's great sourcebooks like SELF EDITING FOR FICTON WRITERS and ON WRITING WELL, which more than cover the job. Bird by Bird may be short on craft, but it's long on motivation, humor, and practical ways to get yourself writing.
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99 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Stacey M Jones on January 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
BIRD BY BIRD: SOME INSTRUCTIONS ON WRITING AND LIFE by Anne Lamott is a lovely, lovely, lovely book! Of course it is about writing, but it is also about any kind of longterm endeavor that is challenging, that creates self-doubt, and that is a channel for self _expression and self actualization. Lamott's Christianity and general spirituality, which is expressed in this book as a side note to her writing focus, is warm and friendly, and her personality, humorous and inclusive and confident, is wonderful for the reader to share. I LOVED the process of reading this book, of being with it.

This book has a charming and engaging introduction and then is divided into parts on Writing (which includes chapters called "Getting Started," "Short Assignments," "Perfectionism," "False Starts," "Plot Treatment," and "How Do You Know When You're Done?"), The Writing Frame of Mind (with chapters like "The Moral Point of View," "Broccoli," "Radio Station KFKD," and "Jealousy"), Help Along the Way ("Index Cards," Calling Around," "Writing Groups," and "Someone to Read Your Drafts" and "Writer's Block"), and final sections called "Publication -- and Other Reasons to Write" and "The Last Class."

While I actually think the writing lessons of this book are secondary to the wonderful life lessons this book contains, I have found myself using these lessons. I love the idea that first drafts can be BAAAAAAAAAAD with no harm to anyone! It's incredibly liberating and freeing, and allows one to write whatever one has to write with self-permission to do a bad job the first time round because you know you'll correct it later on.
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129 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Betti Trapp on April 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This author is a new find for me, but I will surely read much more of her. She is fabulously funny, incredibly informative, and absolutely generous with her thoughts and feelings and expertise on writing. The book warmed me, and made me feel that I could continue my writing with a stronger and better perspective. For aspiring writer's everywhere, and for writers published and not, this book will take you on a journey and offer invaluable advice for your hard work. It will help you revive that natural urge to write and keep you plugging away at the keyboard during the very worst of slumps. You will also laugh with Anne Lamott, the author, who is hilarious and honest and very witty. The practical and real life advice will stay with you as you struggle to become the writer you already are.
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