This book recently got its 25th Anniversary Edition released and is rated the #2 in Creative Writing & Composition. Anne Lamott is a serial writer and a sought-after mentor for many wanna-be-a-writer folks like me.
Why this book is unlike any writing-help books and guides out there?
Table of Contents
Were you born to be a writer? If that question keeps popping up every now and then in your mind, (like mine) it can help you figure out. The book drives straight to the heart of the issues, we writers and wanna-be writers face and provides solid, actionable advice. One giveaway for starters asking, “What do I write about?”
She repeatedly tells us, implores, encourages us to write every little detail about our childhood. This can run into a sizeable novel with still more to come. Right? There are several gold nuggets you get to bite into on every page. Yes, every single page. This is a book I’ll keep going back to for ideas when I want to get things written.
Who is this book for?
The tagline of this book goes – Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
I felt it balances both of them to a great extent. Her style is very conversational, and I almost felt like I was having a cup of coffee with her as she laid down her ideas on how to be a writer first. This book is for any person who wants to wake up their creative side and write them down. You get a real feel of what it is to be a struggling writer, and also a successful writer.
Anne shares her life story relatable to most of us, in so many ways. One that immediately comes to my mind is how her author father helped break the overwhelm of her then 10-year-old elder brother. He had to write an essay on birds from a voluminous book. He had 3 entire months to finish it, but he remembered about it only the night before he had to submit it at school. Eyes welling up in tears and heart full of fear, he approaches their dad. Wonder what he said? “Bird by bird, Buddy. Just take it bird by bird”. This immediately rung “word by word, Buddy…” in my mind overwhelmed at writing a 3000-word blog post at one time. It immediately brought a smile on my face.
Moving on, Mrs. Lamott has split the book into 5 digestible chunks
The 5 parts form the outline of the book
Part 1 – Writing
If you are a new writer, you will love this, and if you’re an established author or consider yourself as a writer at-least in your mind, it will take your writing to the next level.
Consider this- How easy is it to edit a shitty first draft rather than keep staring at a blank page all day fearing writing? She’s got this covered and you’ll encounter many more simple ways to develop a story and help you come out of any writing rut you feel stuck in. It gets a bit slower in the mid-section if you are not specifically writing a fiction book, but I still find it necessary. Once past that, it was a race to the finish for me with the right amount of banter and humor sprinkled generously.
Part 2 – The Writing Frame of Mind
Do you often wonder why a certain person who started off writing along with you, but is already miles ahead of you now. You even know you are a much better writer, have a stronger vocabulary, have bigger ideas, but you don’t know why you feel you are going nowhere. You hate yourself, doubting your capabilities, and want to go deep into the center of the earth or just vanish into non-existence. Don’t disappear yet, there is hope right here. For one, she hits a nerve at handling jealousy and other natures we often fall victim to. For another, she advocates having a writing routine and treating it as a daily ritual.
Anne confesses, she sits down at her desk every day, offers a quiet prayer before she starts, so whatever needs to be written gets written. And that helps her quieten the inner noise and gets her in the flow.
Part 3 – Help Along the way
I love this and I am certain we all can relate to how a little help can take us miles ahead in our journey of becoming a published author. She throws light on, getting a fresh pair of eyes on your piece to bring in new perspectives. Building and being part of liked minded writers. I can’t agree more, because connecting with the writing community is so easy these days. Breaking the writer’s block, the Anne Lamott’s way is a lot of fun, trust me! You’ll get it sorted alright.
Part 4 – Publication and Other Reasons to Write
You have heard the saying “Dance like no-one is watching”. You’ll learn why you have to “write like no-one’s reading.” There are some stories inside of you that need to be told, some to yourself, some to the world. But you got to write like no-one is going to read it. To let those characters speak for themselves, be themselves, to declutter your soul eventually.
Being a writer helps you to find your own voice. And to empathize with yourself; You should.
Writing, she explains, is also a way of giving to the world a share of your best self. Some bits in the part will crack you up like hell, I swear. You should read this book just for this part. I don’t want to give away anymore and add a spoiler here. Period.
Part 5 – The Last Class
Here the author insists why, if you even have a tiny hunch, you want to be a writer, you should. The peace and tranquil we all deserve lies right at the tip of our fingers as we discover ourselves. It rekindles the spirit in us, the real us, and forces to open our hearts so embarrassingly to ourselves and to our readers. Yet, it teaches you how being vulnerable brings out the best in you and your readers. That sophisticated child-like innocence. Capture it.
This is the first book I have read of hers. My copywriting mentor and several people who I follow echoed it as a must-read. It is true, Bird by Bird re-ignited my passion to be a full-fledged writer. I’ll delve into her other books down the line. So, if you wonder you might have a writing gene, then I highly recommend this book. It doesn’t matter if you are a fiction or non-fiction writer, a copywriter, or a blogger; as the book is on creative writing as an art and encompasses the principles behind writing an engaging piece for your readers.
She urges writers like us to forget perfectionism and just delve into the enjoyment of writing. Closing it with a quote she mentions in her book from a coach who was a one time Olympic Gold winner for the Jamaica national bobsleigh team in the movie Cool Runnings – If you are not enough before gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.
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Am I a writer?
PS: Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser is next on my must-read list. I’ll link my take on it with detailed reviews once I am done. Let me know your thoughts if you’ve already read any of them. Also, what other books have helped you craft your writing? Appreciate your comments and any recommendations