Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life eBook

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life eBook

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life ✮ [PDF] ✩ Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life By Anne Lamott ✻ – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk 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 Thirty years ago my older brother, Bird: Some Kindle Ï who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report Bird by MOBI :Þ on birds written that he d had three months to write It was due the next day We were out at by Bird: Some MOBI · 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 aliveIf 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.


10 thoughts on “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

  1. Will Byrnes Will Byrnes says:

    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 Anne 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 sc 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 Anne 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 sopho, 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 eleven 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 SalonOf 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 writinggenerically, 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 first posted 2 6 15Publication date 1994 EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s Twitter and FB pages She does not appear to have her own site


  2. Jane Jane says:

    Where I got the book purchased from .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 .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 lotabout Anne Lamott than I d learned about writing


  3. LeAnn LeAnn says:

    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 anytime 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. J.L. Sutton J.L. Sutton says:

    Ann Lamott s Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life reads like a collection of anecdotes on writing The book is easy to read and some of the suggestions are worthwhile, especially the advice that inspired the book s title I did get a little tired of Lamott complaining about all her students wanting to get published, but I understand her points More disturbing to me, however, was her advice to students who wanted to write about people from their own life To dissuade this real per Ann Lamott s Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life reads like a collection of anecdotes on writing The book is easy to read and some of the suggestions are worthwhile, especially the advice that inspired the book s title I did get a little tired of Lamott complaining about all her students wanting to get published, but I understand her points More disturbing to me, however, was her advice to students who wanted to write about people from their own life To dissuade this real person from coming forward and claiming to be said character, Lamott tells students to make the character distasteful throw in a tiny penis and make him an atheist The advice is written as if it should be amusing I know Lamott often writes on her faith, but this doesn t seem like the right place to slam those who don t share her beliefs Maybe it s just me, but it feels jarring These kind of interjections are largely absent from the first two thirds of the book so I still did find parts of Bird by Bird useful


  5. G G says:

    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.


  6. ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣ ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣ says:

    Q 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, which 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 Q 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, which 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 c Perfectionists swear by it A must read for every sufferer of this malady A manifesto for healthy life out of the hamster s wheel of self deprecation, self sabotage and deadline butchery Bird by bird Q My father wrote an article for a magazine, called A Lousy Place to Raise Kids, and it was about Marin County and specifically the community where we lived, which is as beautiful a place as one can imagine He could take major events or small episodes from daily life and shade or exaggerate things in such a way as to capture their shape and substance, capture what life felt like in the society in which he and his friends lived and worked and bred People looked to him to put into words what was going on c Actually, I m sure that s where the problem with the media reliability is For fiction this is perfect But when one takes real life and twists it out of shape, that s where the crazy elections Trump vs Clinton happen Imagination shouldn t hijack reality and its proportions.Q I loved them, but every so often one of them would pass out at the dinner table I was an anxious child to begin with, and I found this unnerving c Q Every morning, no matter how late he had been up, my father rose at 5 30, went to his study, wrote for a couple of hours, made us all breakfast, read the paper with my mother, and then went back to work for the rest of the morning Many years passed before I realized that he did this by choice, for a living, and that he was not unemployed or mentally ill c Q He could go anyplace he wanted with a sense of purpose One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around c Q I looked at him quizzically I am so, so sorry, he said But it still doesn t work He didn t understand why certain things happened the way they did, or why some things happened to begin with, and most importantly, why so little happened at all c Q Listen I want you to write that book you just described to me You haven t done it here Go off somewhere and write me a treatment, a plot treatment Tell me chapter by chapter what you just told me in the last half hour, and I will get you the last of the advance c Q But I was funny So the popular kids let me hang out with them, go to their parties, and watch them neck with each other This, as you might imagine, did not help my self esteem a great deal I thought I was a total loser But one day I took a notebook and a pen it ended up being included in a real textbook This deeply impressed my teachers and parents and a few kids, even some of the popular kids, who invited me toparties so I could watch them all make out evenfrequently c Q This is wonderful, I thought, throwing back my head to laugh jovially my father writes pornography c Q Later that summer I came to know how they felt, when I read Catcher in the Rye for the first time and knew what it was like to have someone speak for me, to close a book with a sense of both triumph and relief, one lonely isolated social animal finally making contact c Q I could make the story happen I could make it vivid and funny, and even exaggerate some of it so that the event became almost mythical, and the people involved seemed larger, and there was a sense of larger significance, of meaning c Q Throughout my childhood I believed that what I thought about was different from what other kids thought about It was not necessarilyprofound, but there was a struggle going on inside me to find some sort of creative or spiritual or aesthetic way of seeing the world and organizing it in my head I readthan other kids I luxuriated in books c Q Some people wanted to get rich or famous, but my friends and I wanted to get real We wanted to get deep Also, I suppose, we wanted to get laid I devoured books like a person taking vitamins, afraid that otherwise I would remain this gelatinous narcissist, with no possibility of ever becoming thoughtful, of ever being taken seriously I became a socialist, for five weeks Then the bus ride to my socialist meetings wore me out I was drawn to oddballs, ethnic people, theater people, poets, radicals, gays and lesbians and somehow they all helped me become some of those things I wanted so desperately to become political, intellectual, artistic c Q So I dropped out at nineteen to become a famous writer I moved back to San Francisco and became a famous Kelly Girl instead I was famous for my incompetence and weepiness I wept with boredom and disbelief Then I landed a job as a clerk typist at a huge engineering and construction firm in the city, in the nuclear quality assurance department, where I labored under a tsunami wave of triplicate forms and memos It was very upsetting It was also so boring that it made my eyes feel ringed with dark circles, like Lurch I finally figured out that most of this paperwork could be tossed without there being any real well fallout, and this freed me up to write short stories instead c Q Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry That is all we are going to do for now We are just going to take this bird by bird But we are going to finish this one short assignment c Q Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts All good writers write them This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts People tend to look at successful writers, writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident Not one of them writes elegant first drafts c Q


  7. Nikki Nikki says:

    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.


  8. Jason Koivu Jason Koivu says:

    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 isgrounded 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 isgrounded 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


  9. Diane Diane says:

    This is a fantastic writing guide Bird by Bird is one of those books I have been meaning to read for years, and I finally got around to it thanks to the audiobook, which was marvelously performed by Susan Bennett I think this is the first Anne Lamott work I ve read, so I was pleasantly surprised by how funny it was I laughed out loud several times by her stories of writing, teaching and family life.I especially appreciated how kind Anne is, and how she truly tried to make an inspiring writi This is a fantastic writing guide Bird by Bird is one of those books I have been meaning to read for years, and I finally got around to it thanks to the audiobook, which was marvelously performed by Susan Bennett I think this is the first Anne Lamott work I ve read, so I was pleasantly surprised by how funny it was I laughed out loud several times by her stories of writing, teaching and family life.I especially appreciated how kind Anne is, and how she truly tried to make an inspiring writing guide She answers common questions she gets asked from writers, she gives details on what strategies work for her, and she gently nudges the reader to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.Five magnificent stars to Anne Lamott.Meaningful PassageThe very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little But we do We have so much we want to say and figure out Year after year my students are bursting with stories to tell, and they start writing projects with excitement and maybe even joy finally their voices will be heard, and they are going to get to devote themselves to this one thing they ve longed to do since childhood But after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat Some lose faith Their sense of self and story shatters and crumbles to the ground Historically they show up for the first day of the workshop looking like bright goofy ducklings who will follow me anywhere, but by the time the second class rolls around, they look at me as if the engagement is definitely off I don t even know where to start, one will wail.Start with your childhood, I tell them Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can Flannery O Connor said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done Don t worry about doing it well yet, thought Just start getting it down


  10. J J says:

    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 Andok 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.AndI 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


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10 thoughts on “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

  1. Will Byrnes Will Byrnes says:

    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 Anne 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 sc 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 Anne 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 sopho, 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 eleven 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 SalonOf 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 writinggenerically, 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 first posted 2 6 15Publication date 1994 EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s Twitter and FB pages She does not appear to have her own site

  2. Jane Jane says:

    Where I got the book purchased from .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 .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 lotabout Anne Lamott than I d learned about writing

  3. LeAnn LeAnn says:

    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 anytime 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. J.L. Sutton J.L. Sutton says:

    Ann Lamott s Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life reads like a collection of anecdotes on writing The book is easy to read and some of the suggestions are worthwhile, especially the advice that inspired the book s title I did get a little tired of Lamott complaining about all her students wanting to get published, but I understand her points More disturbing to me, however, was her advice to students who wanted to write about people from their own life To dissuade this real per Ann Lamott s Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life reads like a collection of anecdotes on writing The book is easy to read and some of the suggestions are worthwhile, especially the advice that inspired the book s title I did get a little tired of Lamott complaining about all her students wanting to get published, but I understand her points More disturbing to me, however, was her advice to students who wanted to write about people from their own life To dissuade this real person from coming forward and claiming to be said character, Lamott tells students to make the character distasteful throw in a tiny penis and make him an atheist The advice is written as if it should be amusing I know Lamott often writes on her faith, but this doesn t seem like the right place to slam those who don t share her beliefs Maybe it s just me, but it feels jarring These kind of interjections are largely absent from the first two thirds of the book so I still did find parts of Bird by Bird useful

  5. G G says:

    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.

  6. ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣ ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣ says:

    Q 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, which 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 Q 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, which 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 c Perfectionists swear by it A must read for every sufferer of this malady A manifesto for healthy life out of the hamster s wheel of self deprecation, self sabotage and deadline butchery Bird by bird Q My father wrote an article for a magazine, called A Lousy Place to Raise Kids, and it was about Marin County and specifically the community where we lived, which is as beautiful a place as one can imagine He could take major events or small episodes from daily life and shade or exaggerate things in such a way as to capture their shape and substance, capture what life felt like in the society in which he and his friends lived and worked and bred People looked to him to put into words what was going on c Actually, I m sure that s where the problem with the media reliability is For fiction this is perfect But when one takes real life and twists it out of shape, that s where the crazy elections Trump vs Clinton happen Imagination shouldn t hijack reality and its proportions.Q I loved them, but every so often one of them would pass out at the dinner table I was an anxious child to begin with, and I found this unnerving c Q Every morning, no matter how late he had been up, my father rose at 5 30, went to his study, wrote for a couple of hours, made us all breakfast, read the paper with my mother, and then went back to work for the rest of the morning Many years passed before I realized that he did this by choice, for a living, and that he was not unemployed or mentally ill c Q He could go anyplace he wanted with a sense of purpose One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around c Q I looked at him quizzically I am so, so sorry, he said But it still doesn t work He didn t understand why certain things happened the way they did, or why some things happened to begin with, and most importantly, why so little happened at all c Q Listen I want you to write that book you just described to me You haven t done it here Go off somewhere and write me a treatment, a plot treatment Tell me chapter by chapter what you just told me in the last half hour, and I will get you the last of the advance c Q But I was funny So the popular kids let me hang out with them, go to their parties, and watch them neck with each other This, as you might imagine, did not help my self esteem a great deal I thought I was a total loser But one day I took a notebook and a pen it ended up being included in a real textbook This deeply impressed my teachers and parents and a few kids, even some of the popular kids, who invited me toparties so I could watch them all make out evenfrequently c Q This is wonderful, I thought, throwing back my head to laugh jovially my father writes pornography c Q Later that summer I came to know how they felt, when I read Catcher in the Rye for the first time and knew what it was like to have someone speak for me, to close a book with a sense of both triumph and relief, one lonely isolated social animal finally making contact c Q I could make the story happen I could make it vivid and funny, and even exaggerate some of it so that the event became almost mythical, and the people involved seemed larger, and there was a sense of larger significance, of meaning c Q Throughout my childhood I believed that what I thought about was different from what other kids thought about It was not necessarilyprofound, but there was a struggle going on inside me to find some sort of creative or spiritual or aesthetic way of seeing the world and organizing it in my head I readthan other kids I luxuriated in books c Q Some people wanted to get rich or famous, but my friends and I wanted to get real We wanted to get deep Also, I suppose, we wanted to get laid I devoured books like a person taking vitamins, afraid that otherwise I would remain this gelatinous narcissist, with no possibility of ever becoming thoughtful, of ever being taken seriously I became a socialist, for five weeks Then the bus ride to my socialist meetings wore me out I was drawn to oddballs, ethnic people, theater people, poets, radicals, gays and lesbians and somehow they all helped me become some of those things I wanted so desperately to become political, intellectual, artistic c Q So I dropped out at nineteen to become a famous writer I moved back to San Francisco and became a famous Kelly Girl instead I was famous for my incompetence and weepiness I wept with boredom and disbelief Then I landed a job as a clerk typist at a huge engineering and construction firm in the city, in the nuclear quality assurance department, where I labored under a tsunami wave of triplicate forms and memos It was very upsetting It was also so boring that it made my eyes feel ringed with dark circles, like Lurch I finally figured out that most of this paperwork could be tossed without there being any real well fallout, and this freed me up to write short stories instead c Q Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry That is all we are going to do for now We are just going to take this bird by bird But we are going to finish this one short assignment c Q Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts All good writers write them This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts People tend to look at successful writers, writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident Not one of them writes elegant first drafts c Q

  7. Nikki Nikki says:

    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.

  8. Jason Koivu Jason Koivu says:

    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 isgrounded 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 isgrounded 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

  9. Diane Diane says:

    This is a fantastic writing guide Bird by Bird is one of those books I have been meaning to read for years, and I finally got around to it thanks to the audiobook, which was marvelously performed by Susan Bennett I think this is the first Anne Lamott work I ve read, so I was pleasantly surprised by how funny it was I laughed out loud several times by her stories of writing, teaching and family life.I especially appreciated how kind Anne is, and how she truly tried to make an inspiring writi This is a fantastic writing guide Bird by Bird is one of those books I have been meaning to read for years, and I finally got around to it thanks to the audiobook, which was marvelously performed by Susan Bennett I think this is the first Anne Lamott work I ve read, so I was pleasantly surprised by how funny it was I laughed out loud several times by her stories of writing, teaching and family life.I especially appreciated how kind Anne is, and how she truly tried to make an inspiring writing guide She answers common questions she gets asked from writers, she gives details on what strategies work for her, and she gently nudges the reader to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.Five magnificent stars to Anne Lamott.Meaningful PassageThe very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little But we do We have so much we want to say and figure out Year after year my students are bursting with stories to tell, and they start writing projects with excitement and maybe even joy finally their voices will be heard, and they are going to get to devote themselves to this one thing they ve longed to do since childhood But after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat Some lose faith Their sense of self and story shatters and crumbles to the ground Historically they show up for the first day of the workshop looking like bright goofy ducklings who will follow me anywhere, but by the time the second class rolls around, they look at me as if the engagement is definitely off I don t even know where to start, one will wail.Start with your childhood, I tell them Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can Flannery O Connor said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done Don t worry about doing it well yet, thought Just start getting it down

  10. J J says:

    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 Andok 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.AndI 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

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