Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

"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.'"

With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer's life. From "Getting Started,' with "Short Assignments," through "Shitty First Drafts," "Character," "Plot," "Dialogue." all the way from "False Starts" to "How Do You Know When You're Done?" Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses "Writers Block," "Writing Groups," and "Publication." Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.

If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.

Hey! Here's my review.

I began my writing journey last year, fairly unprepared. I read a lot, and on a whim, decided I would have a go at writing the book that I want to read. Since then, I've been working my way through a pile of books and blogs full of writing tips. This is a book I've seen recommended several times by authors I admire, so I bought the audiobook.

I enjoyed the laid back, conversational style. It's not a dry list of rules, it's full of anecdotes and entertaining stories. Most of the advice matched up with what I've read elsewhere and it was good to have it cemented in my mind.

One step at a time.

  • Where: Audible
  • Format: audiobook


  1. This is on my list to read. I've read Stephen King's "On Writing." I found it good, but a little heavy on personal stories. I recently read "Save the Cat," which is a screen-writing book, but much of it can be applied to fiction writing!

    Thanks for the recommendation on Bird by Bird. I read her book "Operating Instructions," when I had my first child and found it sweet, poignant, and endearing. I like her writing style.

    1. I've heard great things about Save the cat too, but haven't read it yet. The most useful writing craft book I've read so far is GMC.


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