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


First published in 1994, Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird is considered one of the quintessential books for writers. As the subtitle Some Instructions on Writing and Life suggests, Lamott’s narrative breaks down the writing life, guiding students of the craft on the journey to understand what drives our passion by sifting the intricacies of writing through the varying emotions and circumstances we’re apt to come across in our day-to-day lives. In chapters like School Lunches and Index Cards Lamott draws on her habits and experiences to better explain her own unique process, while in the chapter titled Writing a Present she explores the various ways in which her inspiration has taken root somewhere outside of herself. Her characteristic wit is at work throughout her narrative, often turning a darkly comic glance on the harrows we come across in writing and life that can sometimes help to fuel our journey.

While Bird by Bird covers a lot of ground, Lamott’s voice handles the material with a quick and comfortable pace. She has a unique ability to shift from seemingly superfluous stories to some hard-hitting and beautifully honest words of advice; occasionally the asides she takes will require the reader to pay a bit more attention in order to fully appreciate her meaning, while at other times she delivers blatant and profound bits of wisdom without preamble. Her ability to balance the two is one of the significant defining factors of the book, but at the core of its impact is the most basic, most important writing advice Lamott can offer, to her readers as well as to the students in her writing workshops.

Bird by Bird reads quickly and easily, and the reader can be in danger of sometimes zipping through its pages with a little too much casual enjoyment, at the risk of missing some of the book’s most powerful – yet delightfully simple – messages. Although she has a clear understanding for the intellectual science of the art of writing, Lamott’s focus weaves between the deliberate and the philosophical; her chapters on creating honest, in-depth characters and natural dialogue will have the reader fervently scribbling notes ("One line of dialogue that rings true reveals character in a way that pages of description can't.") while in other chapters she encourages the reader's introspection and subjectivity ("Write towards vulnerability."). When she gets to the most philosophical topics of her instruction, the vital question of why we write, she departs from her humor to offer some of her most heartwarming and thought-provoking words of encouragement. Although these are arguably the little gems – such as, “You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words” – that we as aspiring writers are the most quickly inspired by, throughout Bird by Bird Lamott delves into topics deeply important for writers, exploring them with a sense of wit, charm, and wisdom that will have a lasting resonance within her reader.

Title:Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeAuthor: Anne Lamott Genre: nonfiction, writing Publisher: Pantheon Books (first edition) Release date: January 1, 1994 Source: Local Library Buy the book:Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | BetterWorldBooksConnect with the author:Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life