Book rec – Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life


[Feature photo: Susanne Nilsson]

To be a good writer, you should be a good reader. Or at least that’s what everyone says.

This year I am on a mission to be a better reader. I want to read interesting, factual things that will help me understand the world better, and I want to read beautifully written things that help me see what good writing can look like.

I’m also reading about writing, and that is surprisingly the most fun so far.

I just finished Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life, and I enjoyed it so much, I think I’ll read it again.

The book is literally a guide on how to write a book or an article. But it is actually more like a set of stories that encourage writers to keep working no matter what stage of the project they are on. Each section covers a different aspect of the writing life from finding your voice, to using index cards, to dealing with jealousy of other writers. Each section is full of useful writing tips and motivation.

Flipping back through the book now, I am almost surprised at how much actual writing advice there is, because my takeaway, immediately after I finished reading, was that everything I am going through in my progression as a writer is normal, and I should keep going. After reading examples from mistakes and lessons learned in her own career I finished every section thinking, “Ok. I can do that.”

In her section on getting feedback after finishing a project, she writes, “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it, and I don’t think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect. You don’t want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can’t fill up when you’re holding your breath.” It’s practical and it’s positive, and it makes me want to write.

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