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About the Book
For a quarter century, more than a million readers—scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities—have been inspired by Anne Lamott’s hilarious, big-hearted, homespun advice. Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom passed down from Anne’s father—also a writer—in the iconic passage that gives the book its title.
An essential volume for generations of writers young and old, Bird by Bird is a modern classic.
About the Author
Anne Lamott is the New York Times bestselling author of Help, Thanks, Wow; Small Victories; Stitches; Some Assembly Required; Grace (Eventually); Plan B; Traveling Mercies; Bird by Bird; Operating Instructions, and the forthcoming Hallelujah Anyway. She is also the author of several novels, including Imperfect Birds and Rosie. A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.
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BIG IDEA 1 (3:46) – Bird by bird, buddy
This book was inspired by Anne’s father who helped her brother who had months to do an essay project at school about birds but inevitably left it to the last minute. Overwhelmed by the size of the task and the short amount of time left, her dad told her brother “Just take it bird by bird buddy, bird by bird”.
However big the challenge is you just have to break it down, take it bird by bird and just get through. She said that in the context of writing, no writer she knows sits down feeling enthusiastic and confident but they do it – word by word, page by page.
Anne said there’s treasure in the piles of chaos and mess, and we need to make that mess to find out who we are. She also said that nobody is reading your first draft or nobody needs to read it. So if you’re putting pressure on yourself to show your first draft (on social media / to friends or family), you’ll find it too overwhelming – keep it for yourself.
On the topic of writer’s block she argues that you actually are not blocked but empty. So you need to fill yourself back up. It’s all about the process. Sit down at your desk and tackle your book, essay or anything, bird by bird.
BIG IDEAS 2 (7:19) – Write to tell the truth
Anne always encourages her students in writing classes to start with their childhood and write anything and everything they remember. The Christmas celebration where your Uncle got drunk, the dress that your Grandma used to wear, the smell of cooking coming through the door, everything you remember. Write it down.
Anne says that you need to write as people talk. And to do this well, you need to go out and listen to people really talking. In your mind, think how you would write that conversation as narrative so it sounds like people really talking. By helping your characters create their own narrative, you find things out about your characters as you go along.
The point of good writing is to create real characters with hopes and dreams. As a writer, you need to think as a writer and constantly observe and listen – you need to write the true representation of people. Observing and listening and capturing can be anything – from a snippet of a one-sided conversation when someone walks past you whilst on the phone, or the colour of someone’s hat at the supermarket.
BIG IDEA 3 (10:11) – Be weird
This book is full of irreverence, neurosis, quirks, hypochondria and general human weirdness. Anne gives voice to the weird things that we all say, feel, think and do but don’t always show or tell anyone.
Because if something inside you is real, someone will probably find it interesting.
This book is a perfect example of writing as a person that you really are not the person that you think you should be to write a book. This is very relevant to non-fiction writing where it’s likely easy to slip into the idea of who you ‘should’ be to be a non-fiction author, rather than writing from who you are.
Music: In Pulse by Assaf Ayalon via Artlist
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