Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

March 1st, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I have a passing interest in writers and writing.

Someday, I aspire to be an aspiring novelist.

And some days, the good days, my vanity and stubbornness subside enough so that I am open to advice and instruction.

So recently, on one of these rare days of clarity and calm, I picked up a copy of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

While¬† not as practical and straightforward as Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, nor Kundera’s Art of the Novel, nor even Wood’s How Fiction Works, Bird by Bird is far more enjoyable to read. It’s the writing guide for the budding scribbler looking for their writing advice to be translated to them by a moody, pessimistic Sarah Vowell who is absolutely hilarious and kind.

Lamott proves to be frankly blunt and honest about writing, limiting none of her acerbic sarcasm. She relates a story about a friend’s imaginary company whose business was having cats put to sleep; the slogan being “The pussy must pay.” Lamott encourages writers to let someone do this with their manuscripts.

Inbetween parables relating the act of writing to the act of executing family pets, Lamott peppers her memoir on writing with straightforward advice:

“To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care.”

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

At the very most, I will eventually write something. At the very least, I will have a few Lamott quotes up on my walls. Like this one:

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

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