Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – by Anne Lamott
Date read: 6/2/19. Recommendation: 8/10.
Hilarious, insightful resource for writers. Lamott discusses everything from intuition and finding your voice, to the writing process and its rewards. Along the way, she weaves in personal experience and reveals the harsh realities of writing and publication–all in good humor. It’s a call to begin writing, find meaning in the process, and trust your voice. Bird by Bird is a tribute to good writing and dedicated readers.
See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.
The Gifts of Writing:
Gives you an excuse to do new things, see new places, explore. Also, motivates you to carefully observe life.
“Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up.” AL
“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.” AL
Feeling you get when you come across a kindred soul who seems to speak for you.
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave.” AL
“You wouldn’t be a writer if reading hadn’t enriched your soul more than other pursuits.” AL
The Work Is its Own Reward:
The act of writing gives more and teaches more than publication. It is its own reward.
“It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” AL
“You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward.” AL
“Good writing is about telling the truth” AL
“An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.” AL
Start by writing really shitty first drafts. That’s the only way to get started.
Writing a book in a single flash of brilliance is a fantasy of the uninitiated.
First draft = down draft. Just get it down. Look for sentences or paragraphs where you’re on to something.
Second draft = up draft. Fix it up. Figure out how to better communicate what you’re trying to say. Strip away busyness.
Third draft = dental draft. Check every tooth.
Plot vs. Characters:
“Plot grows out of character.” Not the other way around.
Determine what each character cares about most in the world – that’s what’s at stake.
ABCDE (action, background, development, climax, ending)
Confidence and intuition come from trusting yourself. This is how you reach the art of relaxed concentration.
Make space for intuition. Rely on it. Let it guide the way. Get your rational mind out of the way.
Start by accepting it. Give yourself permission to be stuck. Accept that you’re not in a productive creative period. Once you do that, you free yourself to fill back up.
Finding Your Voice:
What you bring: “Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning.” AL
“You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own.” AL
Bring out what’s inside of you and you will be able to sustain that indefinitely. Try to bring out something else, it will destroy you.