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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 1999
Anne Lamott writes nothing but. As the case with most autobiographies, it depends on whether or not you like the voice, and I don't. I don't see the wit and graceful humor of such phrases as "one reviewer said I was a treadmark on the underpants of life" or "spider puke." (Seems these reviewers may have had a point.) Nor am I interested in her alcholism, her politics (hates Republicans--big surprise there), her eating travails, or her extremely superficial spirituality. What saved this book from a one-star rating was that she had decent advice for writers--just sit down and do it, write badly, carry index cards, etc. But that's probably been covered elsewhere without having to sit through the debris of Bird By Bird.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2004
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 1999
I was relieved to see that there were at least a couple of negative reviews here, so I wasn't alone. A much better book for aspiring writers is Julia Cameron's "The Right to Write" (or any of her other books, for that matter), Eric Maisel's "Fearless Creating," or Rita Mae Brown's "Starting from Scratch." These at least take for granted that the reader has some idea that you know why you want to write and are not trying to make you prove that you're "worthy" of Being A Writer. Frankly, I found Lamott's writing crude, her self-absorption depressing, and her advice on writing not terribly useful (what little there was of that). Although she certainly seems to love "teaching her classes" I have to wonder how much regard she actually holds them in, given that she's mocking their anxieties about publication at every turn. I'm not sure what she thinks aspiring writers are looking for, but it's not here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I have to say that from the start of the introduction I was disappointed. I was put off by her descriptions of her father's habits. Trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, I continued reading. With each passing chapter, I grew more and more disappointed and disgusted. To say that this book is repetitive is an understatement. All the tips given can be explained in a total of 300 words. Each chapter has a tip to use for "better" writing that is then followed by pages of stories of her sad life. These stories have nothing to do with the point of the book. The part of the book that made the author lose all credibility with me was when she told a story about her using cocaine. Needless to say, the book has been returned. There is no way I would buy it and let the profits support her lifesytle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Regardless of the many years I’ve been writing, it’s always worthwhile to pick up a recommended book on the topic. I’d heard great things about Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird from colleagues for years, but only bought a copy last month. To put it succinctly, the book blew me away.

Lamott personalizes her journey as an author, mother, and teacher. By sharing her experiences, she’s made the writer’s many ups and downs instantly relatable. It was like combining a distance education class with a candid discussion over a glass of wine. Lamott’s chapters on getting started were especially useful to me, as was the section on the importance of characters driving the plot.

You’ll want to refer to Bird by Bird often. In fact, it’s one of the best books on writing I’ve ever read, and trust me, I’ve read more than a few. Oh, and one more point: read the introduction. It’s an absolute delight and provides interesting backstory about Lamott’s life. Even if you’re not a writer, you’ll find her insights to the uncertain and all-too-often agonizing process an eye opener.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2000
If you are a writer haunted by self-doubt and keep battling the daemons that haunt your ego, this book might give you a couple of insights on how to start writing. There are some useful tidbits for the rest of us, but these are difficult to find, and force you to read the rest. You will find no guidance as to creating a better plot, or characters, as the chapter names would lead you to believe.
I expected a book like "Structuring Your Novel: From Basic Idea to Finished Manuscript" from Meredith and Fitzgerald, but with a personal spin. But instead I got some new-age drivel. Its nice to see that the author found solace and escape in her writing (and if you believe the description of the accompanying video, other things), but I wished she would have given us more of a book on writing then one on her personal pains.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2000
I can't believe that no one else has recognized that Bird by Bird is nothing but a rehash of Brenda Ueland's book, If You Want to Write--A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Only Ms. Ueland did it so much better--back in the 1930's. The original author teaches us how to write--without all the self-serving rhetoric of the copycat.
Grab a copy of If You Want to Write--get the real McCoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2003
Wow. I so disagree with so many of the reviews. Though well written itself, I found the book meandering and without purpose, certainly not living up to the sub-title, "some instructions on writing and life." Better writing books abound, and as for instructions on life, well, all it inspired in me were periodic eyeball rolls.
Natalie Goldberg lite. And I realize the irony.
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on May 28, 2004
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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on February 29, 2004
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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