On my last day at a private school where I was teaching, the school director, who knew I write, gave me this book. I had never heard of Anne Lamott before, but a book on writing that came highly recommended from the director caught my attention. Once I opened the book, I could scarcely put the book down.
Lamott writes in an a casual tone, but one that carries a huge payload without wearying the readers. Her first published work was about her father who died of cancer.
“I began to write about what my father was going through, and then began to shape these writings into connected short stories. I wove in all the vignettes and snippets I’d been working on in the year before Dad’s diagnosis, and came up with five chapters that sort of hung together.”
She discovered that writing a book and publishing a book can be exciting but entirely different deals. Her writer’s heart felt woundedby some of the responses but she did not lose hope.
Anne Lamott makes it clear in her charming book that writing is hard work. Her familiar is procrastination, but she also believes that a certain amount of that is necessary for the writing process. She tells her students that the way to write is to sit down every day at the same time. “You put a piece of paper in the typewriter or turn on your computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so.”
Practical solid advice mixed with her self-deprecating tone makes for an instruction book that is fun to read. Lamott is a careful writer but not a prolific one. I’ve read a number of books from writers that purport to teach how to write, but I have to say that Bird by Bird is by far the best I’ve read yet.
Rating: * * * * *
(Note to reader: Lamott’s casual style includes language that may offend some.)