Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

Yesterday while visiting Annette Dashofy at her blog Writing, etc., I was reminded of a wonderful book for writers written by Anne Lamott, called Bird by Bird.

This book was given to me by one of my English professors about eight years ago.  How do I know it was eight years?  I found the note he wrote to me dated May, 1998 inside the cover.  I remember gobbling the book up, after which it rapidly dissolved into the abyss that is my library.

Upon reading Annette’s post mentioning Anne Lamott’s discourse on Shitty First Drafts, I knew it was time to pull this book out again and give her a read.  I made it about 50 pages in last night, stopping somewhere in the midst of her section on characters; today I hope to polish it off.

Reading through Bird by Bird again has reminded me of why I loved this book so much in the first place, and how thoughtful it was of my professor to give it to me back in 1998.  I am reminded of where I was in my writing, my mind and my life back when I first read it, and how many of those attitudes have changed.

For those writers among you who have yet to read Bird by Bird, I highly recommend you pick it up and give it a whirl.  As with anything in life, take what works, and disregard the rest.  Read it again in six months, twelve months (or eight years), and see how your attitudes have changed.

For those who have read Bird by Bird, what parts stand out in your mind?  Which bits of advice or anecdote have been most helpful, inspiring, or thought-provoking for you?  What about this book makes you pick it up again for another read?


7 Responses to Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

  1. Flood says:

    Haven’t read Bird for Bird, but thank you for the tip.

  2. Jenny says:

    I remember her students, in the last chapter–how they focus on getting an agent rather than writing well, and how they never get that paranoia poem.

    I also recommend Margaret Atwood’s _Negotiating With the Dead_. I got that book as a present from an ex-coworker whose book I helped edit, and it has a lot of funny and interesting thoughts on writers and how they’re perceived.

  3. Jeff says:

    I am not familiar with Bird by Bird,but I will certainly check it out.

  4. Jaye Wells says:

    I read this book right about the time I got serious about my writing. It changed my life. It let me know that so many of my worries were a normal part of the process. That was very freeing.

  5. jason evans says:

    Does the book have a certain angle or theme, or is it a wide range of writing topics?

  6. JLB says:

    Flood – I hope that you enjoy it!

    Jenny – I love that part too; the poem makes me laugh every time! Thank you for the book recommendation, I’ll be sure to try it out!

    Jeff – enjoy!

    Jaye – I know just how you feel; it helps so much to hear another writer affirm some of those cycles and doubts and inclinations!

    Jason – The answer is both. More to the point, this book discusses the writing process and several key components (e.g. characters, plot, setting), but most importantly it discusses the aspects of being a writer. Lamott talks about not only how to approach writing, but how to approach writing as a part of your life, where those two intersect, and how to use each to further the other.

  7. Chua says:

    I loved this book–absolutely loved it. My professor had us write a reflection on the book as well as read it, and I wasn’t so sure of it at first, but fell in love with it. Her personal insights and reflections as well as her tips really helped me transform myself from a beginner writer to a somewhat confident writer.

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