Bird by Bird- Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, 257 pages, lives up to its subtitle. I read this book a few years ago more for recreation than education. The book provides practical advice on writing, an informative peek into the emotional and psychological side of writing, and many parallels between writing and life in general. The first of these dual purpose insights on life and writing is on the back cover. It’s advice from Lamott’s father to her brother, struggling to start a school report on birds, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” It’s easy to be intimidated by big projects. But isn’t that how we conquer them, one step at a time? A second insight, and possibly the one Lamott is most famous for is, “Shitty First Drafts.” She puts this at the top of the first page of new projects to remind her that the first draft is just that, a first draft, not the finished product. In life there is a time for bold action and a time for precise action.
More than any other book I’ve read (a relatively short list) Lamott describes the internal, psychological, and entertaining side of writing. She shares much of what is going on in her head and her friends’. I don’t know about you, but my brain often feels more like a population of hamsters in cage wheels, than a precisely mated set of gears in a race car’s transmission. After reading Lamott’s book, I don’t feel alone.