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Bird by Bird

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.

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“More than words can say

I read this book recently and found inspiration throughout. It helped me to focus in communicating what I really believe in.

Saskia Shakin. More Than words Can Say: The Making of Inspired Speakers Ovation Publishers, New York 2008

So what has this got to do with being a writer?

It has everything to do with being an inspired communicator. It has everything to do with communicating from the heart, being true to yourself as you write or speak.

The writer delves down to the essence of communication, making her readers examine themselves, what lies beneath their desire to communicate and how to reach out to engage the feelings of those who read or hear you.

She looks at the importance of story – revealing its importance in carrying the depth and meaning of any message and delivering it to the heart of those you wish to influence.

She is clear that in order to influence others you must first believe yourself, you must have integrated the meaning in and of your life and be expressing your truth.

She talks about expressing your expertise with enthusiasm and communicating with integrity so that  you are perceived as credible.

We become writers because we want to share with others our ideas, our perceptions and our perspectives. This book gets to the root of this, so that we set out on our task – writing or speaking – with a solid basis of our honesty and our truth.  It is not a how-to book, with tips and tricks, it is a foundational book for the thoughtful communicator It is illustrated throughout with personal stories drawn from the writer’s many years of coaching communicators.

This is a book for those who deeply value their craft. I found it to be a treasure.

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