Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott
Published 1994, Anchor Books
Paperback, 258 pages
"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"
I loved, loved, LOVED this book! Anne Lamott wrote this book as if she were teaching a writing class, but that description only covers about half of what the book is about, as the subtitle hints at with the word "Life." I would consider this book somewhat autobiographical in nature, since Lamott uses her own life experiences to demonstrate how she writes. The descriptions and metaphors were so vivid and on point that they had me at times laughing out loud, in tears, or having to put the book down just so I could contemplate what I had just read. The tips that she gave regarding the writing process were things that any person could both understand and use, whether or not he had any experience or formal education as a writer. Her tips ranged from tell the truth and write about your childhood to find a partner and use index cards to record ideas. She gives wonderful advice about the life of a writer, such as if your life is not enough before publication, then it won't be enough after publication.
I know that I will read this book again and again, gleaning her tips, stories, and metaphors like a prospector sifting for gold flecks. I can't recommend this book enough for any would-be writer or even any aficionado of the written word.
The Cover: Simplistic, with three birds, a bird's egg, and a book, in addition to the title, which does not do a whole lot in the way of attracting a reader on visuals alone. It's likely that a book like this would attract a reader based on the reader having read her previous works or the title recommended to the reader.
First Line: "I grew up around a father and a mother who read every chance they got, who took us to the library every Thursday night to load up on books for the coming week."
Wonderful first line for the book-lover in me! I have no doubt that if this book had not been given to me as a gift, I would have picked it up off the shelf from that first line alone.
Favorite Quote: "You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won't really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we'll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates the artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won't wash them away."
Read For: Pages Read Challenge, Twenty-Ten Challenge, New Author Challenge, Celebrate the Author Challenge