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5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful and poetic intruction
this book breaks the convention of writing instruction and takes you deep into the soul of a writer. Anne Lammot is absolutly transparent
Published 4 months ago by Andrew Coughlin

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15 of 17 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 TheCafeWriter


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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it's sacrilege but..., May 25 2004
By 
TheCafeWriter (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring Beginner's Stuff, June 22 2004
By 
Sunnyside "Sunnyside" (Astoria, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
I'm trying to return this book right now...it's not bad, and certainly has its audience, but I'm not it. It's your basic beginner's guide to creative writing, unique for its alternately folksy and sassy tone. A certain kind of beginner will find it encouraging -- typically young and female, I suspect. It's like having your own encouraging single mum! But for anyone who's got past their own precious egos (enough to progress beyond hand-holding and back-patting, anyway) and has the minimum intellectual insight required of a would-be writer of "literary fiction" (as opposed to "genre fiction"), this book's likely to be only amusing at best. I myself cannot recommend it as being helpful to anyone writing at an advanced, pre-publication level, for which I maintain that John Gardner's "Art of Fiction" and "On Becoming A Novelist" remain the most useful of all such books, intellectually rigorous (even if it sounds elitist here and there) and spiritually uplifting for being more "formal" and "classically-minded." As it stands, "Bird by Bird" is a good enough preamble for its implicitly intended market of young female beginning writers (and sensitive "Young Werthers," for that matter). As a nice counter-weight to Gardner, I'd recommend "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers."
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly universal, May 7 2004
By 
This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
I recognize that Lamott, unlike me, is a published author, so I hardly have the right to critique her methods. As an aspiring author, though (presumably the target market for this book), I think the fact that I found it irritating and unhelpful does have some significance for other perspective buyers.
Someone once said that an author is someone for whom 'writing is more difficult than it is for other people.' I don't neccesarily agree with that, but Lamott obviously does. About half of the time, when she talks about writer's block or issues related to writer's block (how to start yourself on the path to a succesful work of fiction), she makes it sound like writing a decent paragraph on the first try is something that happens about as often as God cures you of blindness. She has all kinds of suggestions for how to essentially trick yourself into writing. I always assumed that being good at something meant that you could actually do it...again, I realize how singularly this is my opinion, but if writing fiction is that hard, maybe your talent is for something else.
The other approximate half of the book consists of more practical advice about style, plot and character, a lot of which is practical, some of which tends toward the obvious. Its best feature is Lamott's comic style, which is really ingenious at times, but I would still say that this book is probably of more of interest to casual literature students than to people seriously considering a career as a novelist.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful and poetic intruction, Dec 11 2013
this book breaks the convention of writing instruction and takes you deep into the soul of a writer. Anne Lammot is absolutly transparent
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5.0 out of 5 stars Love at first read, March 6 2013
By 
Phillipa W. Bayliss (Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
So much has been said about this book already. All I need to add is that it's pure delight to read. We writers need all the encouragement we can get.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just For Writers, Dec 17 2012
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This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
I bought this book on the advice of the instructor at a writer's workshop I attended this summer. My wife, who is not into writing, found it on the coffee table, and I have had difficulty getting it back from her.
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Taking it bird by bird, Sept. 28 2003
By 
K. Roche - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
It's the handholding that makes this book worth owning. I have found myself flipping back through Bird by Bird to reread passages and returned to my writing fortified and soothed. This is an imperfect book, as Anne Lamotte herself is an imperfect person. The advice she gives is sound, though, and if one remembers can get past a few differences of opinion, you'll enjoy the bit of direction and companionship she offers.
Lamott is an autobiographical writer and a great, big personality. Sometimes this book seems like close quarters. You may find yourself needing to put it down every 20 pages or so to get some fresh air. Readers who are put off by theological meanderings and over-sharing may find Lamotte's style so irritating that they won't be able to finish this book at all and will be better served by Barbara Ueland's book. Readers who are offended by her colloquialisms will not like this book either, but no matter. Readers who are afraid of a few little four letter words rarely become writers worth reading, and don't need to waste their time being offended by books about writers.
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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
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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 excellent, July 28 2003
By 
C. Hill (Oregon, U.S.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Paperback)
This book is about life, death, writing, jealousy, school lunches, voices in your head, and everything in between. Lamott is funny and witty and entertaining. I've never read any of her work before, and after reading Bird by Bird, I want to read all of her other books. Even if you're not a writer, this book is worth reading.
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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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