Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Book description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An essential volume for generations of writers young and old. The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of this modern classic will continue to spark creative minds for years to come. Anne Lamott is "a warm, generous, and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps"…

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Why read it?

8 authors picked Bird by Bird as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Lamott recalls when her ten-year-old brother put off a three-month project on birds until the night before it was due. She describes him as immobilized. Their father sagely advised, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Although these soothing words were indisputably not directed towards me, I cannot overstate how regularly they calm me in moments of thinly disguised hysteria. The metaphor is brilliant, plus I adore birds. Lamott frequently reminds the reader how quality writing requires—demands—full attention. So does deep reading. So does deep living. While this book is primarily about writing, it is equally about…

From Devora's list on to singletask what matters most.

No writer, whether aiming for publication or personal reflection, should be without this classic (and classically entertaining) guide that is guaranteed to inspire the writer to put her butt in the chair and to accept the truth that all first drafts are shitty. Honestly, Bird by Bird is one of the first ones that made me believe I could write. Anne Lamott also helped me learn to not take it all so seriously with her notion that we humans “are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are,” in contrast to sheep lice, who she says “do…

From G.'s list on to get you writing.

This classic book is a gentle guide to the art of writing and, I believe, the art of recovery. Bird by Bird... Step by Step.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace," she writes, "only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

Anne Lamott's books are all about grace. Searching. Finding. Being found. Telling the truth. And laughter, often belly-shakingly raucous, which loosens up the tension-filled striving for perfection and control. "Laughter is carbonated holiness,” she writes, four words with such deep, tender power that I want to leap…

I have used this modern classic in my writing classes and students find it both helpful and enjoyable. While only a single chapter is devoted exclusively to dialogue-writing, Lamott's homespun advice and conversational tone wrap her dialogue-writing advice around other story elements such as plotting and characterization so dialogue becomes part of an integrated story rather than saddled with irrelevancy. There's practical advice here on getting started, on joining a writer's group, and on coping with writer's block.

From William's list on writing provocative, dramatic dialogue.

I love Anne Lamott’s writing so much I once accosted her in the baggage claim area of the San Francisco International Airport. She was unbelievably gracious. When I was frustrated and anxious and filled with doubt about my writing career, I turned to her book. Again. Beautifully written, authentic, and truly uplifting and inspiring when a writer needs it most.

Not everyone is a fan of Lamott’s literary particularism, writing from the particular details of her experience, but she has written across multiple genres of fiction, nonfiction, essay, and memoir and has something truly enabling to say about the process of writing. This is less didactic than its subtitle sounds, a delicious, intensely personal guide to writing, full of humanity when it comes to false starts, shunning perfectionism, writer’s block and - yet again - finding your (writer’s) voice. Writing is a messy, imperfect process which demands, in her words, that you ‘keep putting down one damn word after the…

From Harriet's list on by writers on writing.

This gorgeous book on productivity and living as a writer encourages you to face the page and get work done. It distills the overwhelm “of being an artist” down to a daily rhythm of a writer’s life. It’s a deep breath in book form, a hand-hold on the page.

From Paulette's list on inspire a creative life.

Lamott’s practical advice takes the immensely huge task of writing a book and encourages us forward through single steps, small efforts. She writes with humor and passion, offering us needed encouragement. This is a book that writers will return to again and again, on those days that we most need a quick dose of hope and inspiration.

From Dinty's list on for inspiring beginning writers.

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