Friday, November 04, 2011

Book Review: Anne Lamott "Bird by Bird"

 Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

I enjoyed this book soooo much that I was inspired to write a book review of it for you.
It's a laugh-out-loud, get a tear in your eye, underline multiple passage and fold over the edge of the page, honest, endearing, instructional, well-written book. I pretty much want Anne to be my BFF or at least be a student in her writing classes.

I especially enjoyed how she wrote in a real voice. Sarcastic sometimes, or silly, or even ending a sentence with 'ha ha.' I love that. It's how my BBF would talk to me!

As you may know, I write articles for magazine and books. It's hard for me. Lots of chocolate is usually involved to ease the stress. Anne's book spoke to me regarding writing...

Start with a "shitty first draft." 
She'd "...write a first draft that was maybe twice as long as it should be, with a self indulgent and boring beginning, stupefying descriptions..." "The next day, though, I'd sit down, go through it all with a colored pen, take out everything I possible could.."
"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something--anything--down on paper."

Her thoughts are on writing...yes, but they apply really apply to making art.  

"So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don't worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this And it is a revolutionary act--truth is always subversive." 

"...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 lighthouse. Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining."

and to life!
"It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship."

"..because helping each other has made their hearts get bigger. A big heart is a both a clunky and a delicate thing; it doesn't protect itself and it doesn't hide."


  1. Hey Jane! ;-)
    I love that book too. It stays on my bedside so I can pick it up and read it when I need inspiration!
    As for singing on a boat in a raging sea: reminds me of a YouTube video I saw recently. A school in Monterey, Mexico was being shot at by two warring gangs. The windows of the classrooms were being shot out. After getting all of her students under their desks and away from the windows, the kindergarden teacher began singing to them. They stopped screaming in terror and just listened. Beautiful in a bad situation.


  2. I have this book . . . somewhere. Now, I am inspired to actually get it out (find it) and read it. Thanks for the illuminating review, Jane!

  3. I have bought & given away more copies of this book than I can count. It's one of my favorites on writing~ I finally went to a reading with Anne Lamott a few years ago and got a signed copy, which is still on my shelf. I wish my writing teachers in school would have read it!

    Love your blog!

  4. I love this book, and everything Annie writes. She is such an inspiration. Her son and my oldest boy were at the same preschool, and I always was impressed by her interaction with her son. You have to read her book "Operating Instructions" about pregnancy and young motherhood of you really want to laugh...

  5. Dang, my comment didn't post. So as I was saying :-) ...
    Great review; I love how you included the bits that inspired you (the most, maybe) - I'm heading to Barnes & Noble today to find this book! ~ Davi

  6. Jane--thanks for spreading the word on my favorite writer! I completely adore every one of her books and hope she has a new one out soon. You rock!

  7. I LOVED this book too! I laughed and I related and was inspired! So glad you shared here.

  8. Yep, that is a terrific book!

  9. I don't know why I haven't read this book before. Thanks to your review, I've just ordered a Kindle copy of it. Thanks!


Thanks so much for visiting!

Related Posts with Thumbnails