Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bird By Bird

Anne Lamott is funny. And wise. And generous. And an excellent writer/teacher. You read her words and daydream that you're old friends, that you could call her up in a low moment and ask for advice.

I had heard of her book for a long time from other writers, but it took me until now to read Bird By Bird. I'm so glad I did. Because I've always wanted to be understood, to feel that I'm not so isolated after all. This book provides that connection.

My problems aren't as unique as I once thought. Turns out, I'm a fairly typical writer. I love knowing that.

Stringing words together isn't the easiest of hobbies. It can make you crazy sometimes. Literally. That's why some people quit after a few disappointments, become depressed, or drink copious amounts of alcohol. Bird By Bird makes sense of all this. It compares the evolution of a story to watching a Polaroid photograph develop, the depth and color emerging slowly--and often surprisingly. It says that the happiest, and least insane, writers are those who enjoy the craft itself—they do it without hope of publication or acclaim. It's a labor of love.

Ms. Lamott points out to her writing students that the odds of the writing life bringing "peace of mind and even joy are not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway."

Why go through the hard times, blogging friends? Is it a labor of love for you?

P.S. If you enjoyed Stephen King's On Writing, you'll be a fan of Bird By Bird.


  1. I'll have to read that one - sounds great!

    I've only written relatively seriously for a few years - but I've always loved putting words on paper. :)

  2. Oh I love the polaroid analogy!! How wonderful!!

    I think I'm also liking this book - thanks lovely Roxy for the review and intro to Bird by Bird!

    Why do writers endure all the craziness!?!? For me it's an obsession. Recently I watched a most wonderful wildlife documentary - Frozen Planet - and one of the scenes was a Bison hunt by wolves. Two wolves - one male, one female - target a young bison. But this bison fights back - and this is a big animal and he just gives as good as he's got. The male wolf gives up after a battering but the female wolf. Oh my stars. She and the bison fight to the death (literally) - blood everywhere - hours later - but the female wolf refuses to give up - she is pummeled and trampled on and hit but by golly she hangs on and doesn't let go - I mean her white fur turns scarlet. She wins eventually but oh at what price. And I'm watching this in jaw dropping AWE and in tears at this wolf's (and bison's) determination and refusal to let go with both their lives at stake and I'm thinking her cubs will eat well at least.

    It's that kind of obsession for me. Ahem.

    Take care

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  4. I read both books and I agree they're both worth reading. Anne speaks to our insecurities and worries.

  5. Which I have so many of, Theresa. ;)

  6. I did enjoy King's book, so I'll look into this one. Thanks.

  7. I hate to disagree with her but I do feel peace when I write. It's a peace that comes from knowing that I'm fulfilling my purpose. Nothing in my life that I've experienced so far has ever matched the kind of peace I feel after spending a day writing.

    But it's possible that I'm a freak among other writers. I won't argue that point.


  8. Excellent review. I have this book on my shelf, waiting for me to actually read it. And, yes, it's a labor of love. I'm having the time of my life being a writer. Write on!

  9. Anne Lamott is pretty cool!

  10. I read that book a few years ago. My writing group at the time all read it and passed it around and talked about it. I Ioved the witty humor that permeated LaMott's pithy insights and advice about writing. I'll have to take another look after all these years. Thanks for the post.