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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Advice for Burgeoning Writers in America
The writer's life isn't always glamorous, but there is usually never a dull moment(OK maybe a few). LaMott tells it like it is. I got this book from my sister Sarah, who knew I was writing my first book. It turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time.
It was interesting to eavesdrop on different strategies she employed to keep her writing fresh and...
Published on May 7 2004 by J. McAndrew

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it's sacrilege but...
I don't really care for this book. With all the hyperbole about it, I really expected it to be the Holy Grail of inspirational writing books.
Instead, it's very heavily laden with metaphors and similes where writing and related topics are compared to all manner of things, and a lot of self-indulgent autobiography that I found more off-putting than inspiring. In just...
Published on May 25 2004 by Amazon Customer


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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it's sacrilege but..., May 25 2004
By 
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
I don't really care for this book. With all the hyperbole about it, I really expected it to be the Holy Grail of inspirational writing books.
Instead, it's very heavily laden with metaphors and similes where writing and related topics are compared to all manner of things, and a lot of self-indulgent autobiography that I found more off-putting than inspiring. In just one short chapter on "giving" she presents these:
* "shot my literary creative wad every day"
* "like Zorba the Greek at the keyboard" (Huh??)
* "I'm a wired little rodent squirreling things away"
* "like patients in an emergency room"
* "like you violated some archaic law in their personal Koran"
* "like a single parent of a 3-year-old"
And *that* simile then compared to "like a doting grandparent."
I found that kind of style tedious after a while. I've tried repeatedly to get through this book - even getting it on tape (and the author reads the entire thing in a monotone).
The overall tone is depressing (unless you really want to hear about cancer and cocaine abuse), and the points can be frustratingly contradictory. For example, she exhorts on writing your truth and pain, but at the same time quotes an editor who told her "you assume everything that's happened to you is interesting." This is like telling new writers to dig deeply within their own memories/experiences and write about them honestly, and then chiding them for writing "what really happened."
I only found a couple of useful tidbits, but with so many other books on this subject that say the same things more concisely and directly, this one just isn't worth it. If you really want to read it, check it out of the library instead.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Advice for Burgeoning Writers in America, May 7 2004
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
The writer's life isn't always glamorous, but there is usually never a dull moment(OK maybe a few). LaMott tells it like it is. I got this book from my sister Sarah, who knew I was writing my first book. It turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time.
It was interesting to eavesdrop on different strategies she employed to keep her writing fresh and creative. The book was so well written, I felt like I was talking to a good friend. Well Done Anne!!
Jeffrey McAndrew
author of "Our Brown Eyed Boy"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good advice on writing -- bad advice on life, Jan. 4 2002
By A Customer
I am at a loss to explain the glowing reviews of this book. Although Bird by Bird contains good advice on writing, I found the author extremely unlikable. Self-absorbed, egotistical, neurotic -- I guess if you take her as an example of how not to live your life, the idea works. I personally don't see how anyone could view her as a role model (cocaine and God? well, that's Northern California for you...).
A more helpful book would have at least included some advice for us poor souls who are otherwise employable (and have jobs) but still want to write. She seems to assume that everyone reading her book has the entire day free to write (or whine, or do "retail therapy").
Finally, as a personal note to the author -- Ms. Lamott, it's called "shopping", not retail therapy. Get over yourself. And for your son's sake, stop doing drugs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Holy Grail? Secrets come from ordinary experiences., May 28 2004
By 
Michael Milford (Brunswick, Georgia United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
Writing can be magical -- to be a conduit of the voices, to be merely the typist, to get out of the way of your characters, and to see the story develope like a Polaroid. Anne Lamott's book is practical, entertaining, insightful, amusing, and right on. I'm reading it for about the third time along with Julia Cameron's "An Artist's Way". I'm just starting to accept that the important thing, as Lamott points out, is the process of writing not the product. This book is good for beginners but a reminder for us who write and put our poems, short stories, novels in boxes within boxes in file cabinets in the basement. Anne Lamott reminds us that writing is a very human activity. It is humbling and exhilerating. And when we feel so alone in the process, Anne Lamott reminds us we're not alone in the things we confront or experience in the process. Writing is messy . . . is art. The magic, the secrets of the art come from ordinary experiences in the process. So, holy grail? Everybody has their own experience in salvation. Anne Lamott just reminds us common people who have to write to remain sane that we're not alone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review Bird by Bird, Feb. 29 2004
By 
Craig (Tucson, AZ USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
In the world of writing there are many different books that one can check out to find guidance and inspiration. This book explains how to write in a down to earth way. Writing is like walking, taking one step at a time until you end up where you want to be. Oferring everything from she has ever learned about writing Anne Lamott presents it in a way that is humorous, inspirational and can help any writer who is having trouble. After you finish reading this book you will be motivated to want to write for hours upon hours.
The first part of the book is a basic overview of how to write a work of literature. The number one rule of writing is to tell the truth. The reader does not want to read a story from an unrealiable source. After the writer swears to write the truth Lamott says to start from the very beginning of your life. Write down everything: where you went to school? who your friends and teachers were? What clothes you wore? things like that. Then expand the details, write the fine points and then just keep going. Writing is observing what is around you and putting that on paper. To get into the mood for writing, make it a habit, sit down at the same time, and just write. The only way to get better at something is to practice, so practice writing. This process is the same for everyone.
Once you start the writing, the characters need to come into play. What are the different personalities of these people? Are they good with morals? Or are they bad to the bone? Now ask yourself different uestions and think of an answer that the character might respond with. Get to know your characters personally and let there be something at stake or else the story will be very boring. One way to familiarize yourself with the characters is to base them on people you know.
As the plot thickens, Lamott says that the characters interacting make the plot. Two characters who learn about each other day by day are bound to have something happen to them at some point.
After the characters are in place, the set needs to be accounted for. This accounting is where the author gets to be the director and set everything into place. What does the room or surroundings look like? What time is it? What does the area smell like? These and many other questions need answere to make the plot work.
Bird by Bird also has many examples as to why to write in the first place. You can give your writing as a gift. Write someone a story and they will chereish it forever. Write for the communitiy, in a paper. Tell the populaceyour view of an event happening in the town. The best reason to write, is to have it published. To have your words immortalized in a book is one of life's ultimate moments. Although Lamott says that it is not as big as, one would make it. Once you have a published book, you think that it could have been better written she argues.
Lamott has a lot of advice to give to writers who feel stuck in their writing. Her advise can be put to good use. The first advise is to carry index cards, when a good idea pops into your head, just whip out an index card and jot down your idea. Later gather your index cards while writing and put your good ideas to use. Lamott says that a telephone is a good resource to use on writing. When you need a second opinion about something or need some expert advice just use a telephone to instantly contact someone. Another good piece of advice is to shut up that voice that says that your work is worthless, that it is not perfect, and that it does not sound good. Silence that voice in order to achieve perfection. Probably the most important advice is to keep writing. Practice makes perfect.
This book has taught me a lot about writing. I thorougly enjoyed the book. Lamott explains how to write well in a simple, humorous, way that makes writing enjoyable. I highly recomend Bird by Bird. Even though I will not pursue a career in writing, I can not wait to start my own story just to be writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Irresistable affirmation, Oct. 1 2003
By 
S. D. (the United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
All the published writers I know personally are happy and healthy. They have good domestic lives, pleasant childhood memories, and daytime careers that are just as satisfying as their prolific writing.
Curses.
But then there's Anne Lamott, possibly the most charmingly neurotic person I have ever "met" through a book.
Bird by Bird is a story. It is a story about a particular life, and the role of writing in it. Anne shares the inspirations that have helped her struggle on, and they become our inspirations as well. Her "lessons on writing and life" do indeed apply to both.
This is not a how-to manual on getting your book published. There is nothing in here about query letters and directories of agents. There is almost nothing specific about writing technique, except for the book's own style, which serves as an excellent lesson in itself.
Instead, it is a book about how to live writing, or even just how to live, with writing as an inseparable part of that life.
When the person who gave me the book asked how I liked it, I said, "Well, I have a crush on the author now. And I'm writing again."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ten stars, please. A classic in its own time, Sept. 14 2003
By 
Peggy Vincent "author and reader" (Oakland, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
Here's the thing: I KNOW Anne Lamott loves writing fiction, and she's helluv good at it. But I swear she's at her best when writing nonfiction. Afterall, it was Bird by Bird and Operating Instructions that put her over the top; then she followed up with Traveling Mercies. The quality and longevity of her fiction pale by comparison.
Bird by Bird is simply one of the three best books on the angst of writing and being a writer that's ever been written. The other two are Writing Down the Bones and S. King's On Writing. But the three books are very, very different. King's is actually pretty weird in spots, as he is, but for the most part it's all about philosophy. Natalie Goldberg's 'Bones' is very instructional and inspirational.
But Lamott! Oh, Annie's book is just as outrageously honest and funny and true and painful in the telling as it is in actuality to be a writer.
Wonderful, wonderful book; highest recommendation.
Read it.
If you're a writer, you'll get some advice from a master on how to cope with (or not) self-doubt, writer's block, and jealousy. But read it anyway, even if you're not the least bit interested in being a writer but just happen to like her other books; you won't be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A reminder of her powerful words..., July 5 2003
This review is from: Bird By Bird (Audio Cassette)
Once more, Lamott has applied a poultice for the soul with her words. She possesses the ability to make people laugh out loud, to incite a placid and mildly depressed reader to spew beef vindaloo over the pages of a book while discovering a hilarious passage from the pool of truth. This is an author who makes some of us queasy when one considers her first book, Hard Laughter, which was great and got great reviews and which was published at twenty-three, an age when most of us are trying to find a waitressing job in a fancy restaurant (at least I was). From then on she continued cutting her swath of Hell, with wonderful novels like Joe Jones and Rosie and All New People, which I've read three times. Ironically enough, this is a woman who has professed to know no cosmic reason why she should continue writing. If I, like all people created, am a part of God, and I've heard that I am, then I hereby decree that Lamott must continue to write books. Although she need not do it at breakneck speed, she must definitely do it. So there's your cosmic reason, Ms. Lamott. Additionally, any of you out there who consider yourselves Lamott fans but have not read the book or listened to the recording of Bird by Bird are not being completely honest... Read this wonderful book, and then listen to the recording, for Ms. Lamott's powerful messages resonate through her voice. I recommend you read all of her books. Read it all, preferably with a nice Indian takeout.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in its own time..., May 27 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
Here's the thing: I KNOW Anne Lamott loves writing fiction, and she's helluv good at it. But I swear she's at her best when writing nonfiction. Afterall, it was Bird by Bird and Operating Instructions that put her over the top; then she followed up with Traveling Mercies. The quality and longevity of her fiction pale by comparison.
Bird by Bird is simply one of the three best books on the angst of writing and being a writer that's ever been written. The other two are Writing Down the Bones and S. King's On Writing. But the three books are very, very different. King's is actually pretty weird in spots, as he is, but for the most part it's all about philosophy. Natalie Goldberg's 'Bones' is very instructional and inspirational.
But Lamott! Oh, Annie's book is just as outrageously honest and funny and true and painful in the telling as it is in actuality to be a writer.
Wonderful, wonderful book; highest recommendation.
Read it.
If you're a writer, you'll get some advice from a master on how to cope with (or not) self-doubt, writer's block, and jealousy. But read it anyway, even if you're not the least bit interested in being a writer but just happen to like her other books; you won't be disappointed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Practical Advice, Dec 18 2002
By 
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
I liked the way the author effectively de-glamorized writing and getting published, and made it all seem very real. Writing isn't magic; it takes a lot of work for everyone. She encourages everyone to write even if you're writing really horrible stuff. Her advice about writing is inspiring; I stopped at least twice to scribble things down while I was reading. The title, which made me curious from the very start, refers to an anecdote rehashed throughout the book. The author's little brother was distraught about writing a long report about birds and her father suggest that he take it bird by bird (or one step at a time) good advise. However, this book is not appropriate for everyone. There is a lot more swearing than I expected (I expected none, but it's sprinkled through every chapter), many references to drinking, drugs and male anatomy. While I would recommend this book as a great gift for a writing friend, I wouldn't give it to your pastor-at least not without reading it first.
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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (Paperback - Sept. 1 1995)
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