Thursday, July 21, 2005


If you are a writer in the early to intermediate stages of your passion, Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird is for you. I checked this book out from the public library a number of years ago when I was feeling down about ever getting anywhere with my writing. Still having gotten nowhere but feeling much better about, it I decided to buy the book and read it again. I am glad I did. It is an inspiring little book. Lamott has a great sense of humor, laughs at herself and invites you to laugh along and take yourself a bit less seriously in the process. Instead of having exercises for practice and telling you what to do and what not to do, she writes about her own experiences and invites the reader to consider the qualities of good writing. Along the way she makes suggestions that might help a person get past roadblocks. If a person wants to write a novel, for instance, and is having difficulty because he is overwhelmed by the amount of writing required, Lamott suggests short assignments. Short assignments are exactly that, today I am going to describe the house my character lives in, or her relationship with her mother, or the time she and her best friend stayed up all night watching Humphrey Bogart movies. Lamott also encourages writers to give themselves permission to write "shitty first drafts" and to overthrow perfectionism, the "voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people." She also talks about how to know when a piece you have been writing is done, how to "listen to your broccoli," how to tune out the voices that tell you that you are worthless and wasting your time, and how to deal with jealousy when writer friends find success and you don't. She offers some wise words about publication too:

Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems. Publication will not make you more confident or more beautiful, and it will probably not make you rich.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't try and publish, only not to expect to to be the next J.K. Rowling. I'll be keeping this book handy for the next time I need a little writing encouragement or pick me up.