Go Read: Bird by Bird | Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Go Read: Bird by Bird | Some Instructions on Writing and Life


While most of the world is burying their noses into Rising Strong or Big Magic, I turned towards Anne Lamott — for some instructions on writing and life. Because as the subtitle says…this book is for both.

First off, Ms. Lamott is a beautiful writer. She has a legion of devoted fans from well before her Oprah appearance.

Her no BS approach is hilarious while her anecdotes goes deep, delivering straight to the heart. If you’re looking to improve your writing, this book will help. Especially if you can absorb her authenticity. But if it’s the life lessons that you’re after — there are plenty, grounded in spirituality, yet void of any New Age-y bells and whistles.

In one chapter, she writes about the breath as the path to finding stillness.

You might also consider trying to breathe. This is not something that I remember to do very often, and I do not normally like to hang around people who talk about slow conscious breathing; I start to worry that a nice long discussion of aromatherapy is right around the corner. But these slow conscious breathers are onto something, because if you try to follow your breath for a while, it will ground you in relative silence.

She also talks about writer’s block which could be useful for anyone stuck in their creative path.

There are few experiences as depressing as that anxious barren state known as writer’s block, where you sit staring at your blank page like a cadaver, feeling your mind congeal, feeling your talent run down your leg and into your socks.

Her advice is to get outside, and out of your head.

Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck.

And on reasons to write:

Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and the truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.

She explores the idea of finding your voice. Because no matter what you experience, your interpretation is completely unique.

If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.

Learning to speak your truth isn’t only helpful in your writing, it can benefit all areas of your life. Naturally, it’s a process. It won’t happen overnight. This book breaks it down into smaller steps — Bird by Bird, as Ms. Lamott so eloquently explains.

Buy the book here.

What do you know about Anne Lamott’s work?

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7 Comments

  1. australeya@gmail.com' alohaleya says:

    Love this! Thanks 🙂 Aleya

  2. I’m glad for the quotes so I can see how she writes. I’d flagged her in my head, meaning to get to a book of hers. What she says here is stuff I’ve posted. But I like her language. And oh yeah. Breathe.

  3. Many consider her a writer’s writer. It took me awhile to get to this book, but I’m glad I finally did. It’s well worth the read. And yes, to breathe is always good advice.

  4. sara_foley@bigpond.com' sara says:

    I love this book so much: in fact, just yesterday, I listed it in my top two books for the year…so much wisdom and humour, my fave combo ????

  5. Yes, her tone is beautiful. Her observations / connections with humanity is inspiring. I’m curious about your other top book…

  6. chloedance@comcast.net' SirenaTales says:

    Thanks so much for reminding me to get back to Anne Lamott’s dynamite work, Elysha. I bought “Bird by Bird” years ago, and then didn’t get to read it…but I will now. I have read several of her other books–some of them more than once–and find her special combo of humanity, sageness, perceptiveness and humor riveting and inspiring. I love the quotes you’ve included here–just the sparks I need tonight. Many thanks for the soul nourishment. xxo

  7. I can see how her books are the kind that get read more than once. Many thanks to you, my dancing friend, for stopping by with your support. x o x o

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