The proof is on my Amazon account. “You purchased this book in 2005.” I’ve loved this book for a long time. 2005 was a turning point in my life as a writer. It was the year I went from maybe this writing thing is for me to I’m going to write! But I needed some help, so I asked around, “any recommendations for a novice writer?”
Without hesitation, “Bird-by-Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by, Anne Lamott,” friends would offer in reverent tones, its esteemed adoration apparent.
They were right, too. Just look at the opening lines, “…good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.” Regardless of what you write, that’s the essence of it. Whether you’re a comedian, a journalist, a blogger, or novelist, that is the point. We’re all just reading and writing to figure out who we are.
Anne Lamott understands the creative process, she knows what a writer needs to hear and be reminded of, and she does it with great wit. The lessons in this book are helpful for writers at any stage of their career.
I did fail one lesson, though, the one on “shitty first drafts”. Granted, I read Bird by Bird right before I embarked on my first ever NaNoWriMo experience, and though in real life I am not a “pantster”, I was feeling brave and had this permission to write shitty, so I went for it. In the end, my poo-laden, mostly-finished first draft still waits in a virtual drawer in the hopes that it’ll fertilize a brand new book in the future. It was so thick with the stuff that I couldn’t get it clean. I realized, I need to go into first drafts with my overalls, boots, and gloves on. Mucking around? Yes, but not so much that the smell won’t ever come off.
I still turn to Lamott for inspiration and instruction, though now it tends to be more for life than writing. How about you? Have you read it? Are you a fan of Lamott? What books helped inform you on your vocational path?
Thanks for reading!
Readers, I’m looking for guest authors for this blog. Is there a piece of literature that’s inspired you? Maybe it helped you see the world differently, maybe it helped you make an important decision, or maybe it made you realize you weren’t alone in the world. If you’re not brave enough to post, I could tweak your submission (with your approval) & post it. Comment here, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’re willing.