I want to share with you one of my favourite books:
Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
“As of today, here is almost every single thing I know about writing.” These are the last words of Anne Lamott’s introduction to this book. And sharing this is exactly what Ann Lamott sets out to do.
“Bird by Bird” wraps up all the writing lessons and tips up in stories so neatly that you hardly notice that you are learning and understanding this craft better than you did before.
In her introduction she presents herself, her life to date and how she feels about being a writer. She divides the book into five sections. The first of these, “Writing”, which takes up almost half the book, covers the basics – plot, character, settings, first drafts. It also, unusually, takes a look at false starts, perfectionism and knowing when you’re done – topics not often covered in how-to-do-it manuals.
The remaining sections “”The Writing Frame of mind”, “Help along the Way”, “Publication and Other Reasons to Write” and ”The Last Class” carry the reader through the process of writing, with the final section offering the reassurance that writing really matters.
This book is readable and literate without being pretentious. It flows smoothly and we get to know the writer as a person – quirky, humorous and warm. There are no barriers here – the writer is open and honest in the way she shares her life and her explorations in the world of living and writing.
Her message is one of encouragement, without being unrealistic. This is not one of those “follow-these-easy-steps-and you-too-can-become-a-famous-writer manuals. It is a book that urges you to look within yourself to find what you want and need to say. It shows you how to take pleasure in the process of writing.
So often I get the impression that some writers write out of sheer hubris. They are 25 years old and they kindly reveal to the rest of us the complexities and mysteries of life. No problem.
This writer has lived life, has observed it and felt it. She has poked around in the odd corners of life and learned a thing or two, much of it related to writing.. Her thoughts on all this she ventures to share with us in conversational, story form . Reading it is like listening to a friend.
The fact that she has found so many stories in her own life and in the lives of those around her qualify her to write this book. It contains topics, suggestions and advice in ways that are seldom addressed in writing manuals.v The writing is warm and personal. The writer is never didactic. She never points the reader in the way they ought to go.
Instead she suggests questions to ask, avenues to explore, and ideas to think about. This is a book that ll writers – published, emerging or tentatively starting out – can find value in.
If you like answers cut and dried, right or wrong, this book is not for you. If you enjoy the thoughtful exploration of ideas, especially ideas about writing, you’ll find this book a delight.