- 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: 1,280 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life 1st Edition
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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.
"Superb writing advice... hilarious, helpful and provocative." -- New York Times Book Review.
"A warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer's world and its treacherous swamps." -- Los Angeles Times.
"A gift to all of us mortals who write or ever wanted to write... sidesplittingly funny, patiently wise and alternately cranky and kind -- a reveille to get off our duffs and start writing now, while we still can." -- Seattle Times.
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Ms. Lamott touches upon all kinds of subjects that writers find intriguing, such as writer's block (and writer's jealousy), the benefits of writing groups and conferences, the ups and downs of publishing, and finding your voice. I loved her writing voice - it was honest and clear-headed and self-deprecating and touching. There's one very short story she includes that literally brought stinging tears to my eyes. I still to this day find such a feat to be a miraculous gift from a writer. I also loved this little instruction on writing and life: "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." Wise words, Ms. Lamott.
As writers, we tend to be navel-gazers, but the following tidbit really hit home with the selfishness of some of my writing: "Some of us tend to think that what we do and say and decide and write are cosmically important things. But they're not." After which she states, "If you don't know which way to go, keep it simple." Such good advice!
Finally, she advises that writing can bring you great pleasure in the midst of undeniable pain. And maybe, just maybe, you can write something that actually makes a difference: "Against all odds, you have put it down on paper, so that it won't be lost. And who knows? Maybe what you've written will help others, will be a small part of the solution. You don't even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse." I think it's safe to say that now I want to be her best friend.
Lamott did hold my attention for the first third of bird by bird. She gets very personal about how she got started as a writer and talks about her thoughts on character, plot, and dialogue. However, things got muddy after that, and I often had a hard time finding much of value. The book is subtitled Some Instructions on Writing and Life, so I expected her to get personal. However, the entire work was so full of depressing and sarcastic ramblings that I failed to find many “instructions on writing,” and I didn’t find much on “and life” that was useful either.
I had to fight through the last two-thirds of the book. There was still the occasional humorous anecdote that caused me to laugh, but overall it wasn’t for me. A lot of people really liked bird by bird. According to Amazon, over 85% of readers gave it 4 or 5 stars. I guess I’m one of the weirdos in the minority here. I’m sure Anne Lamott is a great literary writer, but for me this book was full of the incessant ramblings of someone who thinks being sarcastic and angry, passes as being clever. I rate bird by bird three stars.