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on June 14, 2016
I have read Anne's books for years but never thought to read her book on how to be a writer. That was a big mistake. As someone who loves to write myself I am once again humbled by the simplicity with with Anne makes things.

If you have even a small desire to write, buy this book. Buy it now and then get started on writing your s***ty first draft.
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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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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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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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on September 5, 2001
As some of the other reviewers have said, the actual writing advice in this book is slight and conceptual. I also found it inspirational, to a point.
The book's failing is in assuming that the author's reason for writing--to uncover the truth in her life experience--is the only important one. Lamott dismisses other writing (presumably commercial fiction) as "making candy."
This stance is elitist and annoying (it's the same one you get from most college writing instructors). The argument goes like this: you must aspire to uncover the Truth, because that is what literature is for. Writing that doesn't do this--writing that merely entertains, for example--is less than worthy (it's just "making candy," and candy rots your teeth). Lamott at least tells you that you probably won't be good enough, and probably won't make any money even if you are--but she still insists that you pursue Truth.
I don't buy it. Humans have a fundamental need for stories of all kinds. Creating a story and telling it well enough to be published is noble enough, without burdening yourself with the fear that you're not writing "truth," or that your writing is somehow less important than any other.
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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 October 1, 2003
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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on September 14, 2003
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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on July 5, 2003
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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on May 27, 2003
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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