Thursday, May 10, 2012

BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott


A bestselling author offers the same advice on writing and living that she gives to students in her writing classes.


This is a relaxed book that reads like a warm talk with a friendly teacher or your favorite aunt. Anne Lamott has collected years worth of wisdom as a novelist. In this short guide, she shares the many tools of her trade, from methods for keeping track of ideas to meticulous plot treatments to shitty first drafts. Her suggestions are practical, and often come with thoughtful personal anecdotes. My favorite tidbit is that she keeps a one-inch picture frame by her desk and uses it to remind herself to focus only on one tiny step at a time.

Lamott writes about the challenges and unique joys of the writing life with a healthy dose of realism. She acknowledges the frustrations and misgivings that come with any creative pursuit while providing nuggets of encouragement for the frazzled writer. She insists that it is important to understand why you write because it will not be an easy road. The self-doubt and uncertainty never fully goes away, and publication will not make you a better, happier, smarter person than you were before.

Lamott's tone is casual, and she has a natural honesty and humility in her voice. Her charm comes from her openness, and it makes this a book to reread in delicate moments. For me, it was not a book that spurred me to action like Stephen King's On Writing did last year, but I can see why it is a writers' classic. It's also a book I would recommend to non-writers who find their solace and passion in other types of creative work because much of the encouragement still applies.


An article by Anne Lamott on


$11.99 for the Kindle edition


What is your creative outlet? Is it something you can pursue full time? What are some of the challenges associated with that particular passion?

Just a reminder that I'll be launching my mini travel memoir, an e-book called The Olympics Beat: A Spectator's Memoir of Beijing during the week of May 27th.


  1. Love this book. It's a different style and voice than King's On Writing, but I like how each is a writer dedicated to helping other writers.

  2. I like the sound of the book and the advice she dishes out on writing. Nice review.

  3. My sister bought this book for me when I started 'trying to be a writer'. It has helped me enormously. Also, it's a comfort to hear that published and experienced authors have bad days too!

  4. I also read this book, as part of a reading assignment from an independent editor I worked with a few years ago, but can't remember as much about it as I can from Stephen King's On Writing.


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