Posts tagged ‘birdbybird’

June 5th, 2011

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Bird by Bird

Author: Anne Lamott

Published: September 1st, 1995

Number of Pages: 239

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue.” all the way from “False Starts” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses “Writers Block,” “Writing Groups,” and “Publication.” Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.

If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this books for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eves open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life. [From Goodreads]

Quote:

There are few experiences as depressing as that anxious barren state known as writer’s block, where you sit staring at your blank page like a cadaver, feeling your mind congeal, feeling your talen run down your leg and into your sock.

Now, you also want to ask yourself how they stand, what they carry in their pockets or purses, what happens in their faces and to their posture when they are thinking, or bored, or afraid. Whom would they have voted for last time? Why should we care about them anyway? What would be the first thing they stopped doing if they found out they had sixth months to live? Would they start smoking again? Would they keep flossing?

…clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip.

Review:

Despite the fact that many, many were, it’s odd to find out that certain books were written before I was born. For instance, this book was written almost two months before I was born, and now here I am, reading it and understanding it. Isn’t wonderful how time has no hold over literature? And it’s quite fortunate, considering how much this book has and will continue to help me with my writing.

As I’ve said before, it’s always a comfort to read a book on writing by someone who can very clearly write well. If the author can manage to make their nonfiction interesting, I am willing to learn from them! They’re gifted.

Bird by Bird is definitely the… deepest of the three books on writing that I’ve read recently. Anne Lamott ties life experiences of her own and of others into the concepts she’s trying to teach. In many cases, I forgot that I was reading a book on writing at all, because the “on life” factor is so dominant. At the same time, I learned loads about writing, specifically theme, characters, and the lifestyle that a person must adopt to devote themselves to writing. Anne Lamott was born into a literary household (her father was a writer). She learned to love books from her loved ones, and eventually learned to write from them as well. I was inspired by the stories she told of writing books for her dying father and best friend. What could be more worthy of our time, energy, and creativity than the people we love most?

I think the key thing I got out of Bird by Bird was a strengthened appreciation for the writing craft (or art?). It affects everything a writer does in life. The way we speak, the way we read, the way we think of people, and the way we see the world. As I come to understand how to create characters, I understand people far better. The more I learn about intriguing description, the more I appreciate the things around me. Anne Lamott stresses how wonderful – though sometimes brutally difficult – writing is, and it’s evident that she thinks it’s the best sort of life.

And isn’t it?

Bird by Bird is a touching, funny, and informative book that will teach and motivate. You will want to jump right back into your work-in-progress. You’ll remember why you began writing in the first place – it nurtures you.