Thank you to Sarah for the gift of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by author Anne Lamott. This was a great book to start of 2018 with as I ponder the best way to share a special story.
The book was written like a conversation including encouragement, tips and the no-nonsense truth that writing is both difficult and is not likely to make you rich yet “the act of writing turns out to be its own reward”!
Here are a few great tips that I have highlighted:
- “put a little bit down on paper every day” – Lamott encourages you to write SOMETHING, take notes about what you see when you are out in the world, write about an experience in childhood just write something! She suggests to “do your 300 words and then go for a walk”.
- “read all the great books… we can get our hands on” – this is an idea that I love as an avid reader! She later suggests the exercise of writing to an author we love.
- “let ourselves make mistakes” – great advice in writing and life, this is how we learn and grow!
- “bird by bird” – this was the suggestion that her father gave to her brother when he had left a project to the last minute. He suggested chunking it out, writing something small and not tackling the entire project at once.
- “start by getting something – anything – down on paper” – write a “really, really shitty first draft” – expect that the first draft will need a lot of work and is really about getting it all out on paper, quieting the perfectionist voices in our heads and then shaping it through edits.
- Know your characters – “be open to them” as “plot grows out of character”
- “sound your words – read them out loud” when you are writing dialogue
- “writing is about learning to pay attention” – experiencing things and then writing them down for future use. This author uses index cards but many authors use notebooks including Michael Winter who shared that he keeps thin bank books to write down his thoughts (not sure what he will do when he can no longer find these as banks go paperless)!
One constructive criticism of the book is her comments about the Special Olympics. Even after finishing the book, I am cringing at her comment about “a girl of about sixteen with a Normal-looking face” and how she described runners as they “lumped and careened along“. I am surprised that editing did not catch these descriptions as I am sure this was not meant to be disrespectful as she described her exhilaration and cheering at the event.
Overall, Bird by Bird is a quick read packed with inspiring tips. The main message that I will take from this book is to try and write every day, even writing 300 words is a start and seems manageable on a busy day!