Title: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Author: Anne Lamott
Publisher: Anchor (Knopf Doubleday)
Time taken to read: 4 weeks, 1 day
Goodreads synopsis: […] 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.
Fun fact: this book was published the year I was born. Other fun fact: I am kinda over books about writing. I will say that I enjoyed this one very much, but reading about writing kinda just feels like I’m avoiding writing. I already know all the things a book about writing is going to tell me. Write every day, don’t give up, except maybe you should give up if you’re really not 100% in it because most people don’t get published anyway, and getting published isn’t as great as it sounds, blah blah. First of all, I refuse to believe that getting published isn’t that great. Maybe it wasn’t that great in 1994, but in 2016, a year where Instagram and Facebook exist to show all your enemies from high school that you achieved your dreams and got hot, yeah, it’s probably pretty great. Also, I do write every day. I send at least 5 well-crafted text messages every day. Each one usually has several drafts. I’m not kidding. The other thing about books about writing is that they all seem to be so out of date. Is no one writing anything about what it’s like to write in 2016? I’d like to read something like that, but so far all I can find (and by “all I can find,” I mean “all that’s been placed in my hands by other people without a second of my own effort”) is books about what it’s like to write before computers were a thing. Nobody mails their manuscripts anymore. No one has to call places to do research. We have the Internet now. (And thank god, because I’m so terrified of phone calls.)
Anyway, besides a horrific “are” where there should be an “is” on page 145, I agree with the author of the Goodreads synopsis: Anne Lamott is kind of inspiring, and she is very funny. And in fact, her sense of humor is very in line with mine. If only I wasn’t an infant when she wrote this, we could have been great friends, because I too love to joke about being so mentally ill I can hardly function. That sounds sarcastic, but it isn’t. That’s like 80% of my jokes. Anne seems to think that most writers are really mentally ill, which is interesting because I tend to think of anyone who’s successful at anything as painfully normal and well-adjusted. Sad people can’t get published–we can barely change our clothes! Anne would think that was funny.
So if you’re going to read a book about writing, I’d go with this one. But you should probably just write instead. But in any case, I think if I learned anything from this book, it’s that I need to find a writing community, because that’s what she talks about most. The only problem with that is that I’m afraid of everyone. So, who wants to write with me?