Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: This is more or less a distilled version of one of Lamott’s writing courses. In it she explains the importance of shitty first drafts, short assignments, and writing partners, among other things. She shares many intimate moments from her life, both writing and otherwise, as well as her responses to the usual questions from her students. This book came recommended as one of those books that every aspiring writer must read. In a way I agree with this: Lamott is brutally honest about the trials and tribulations of writing without sounding bleak or condescending (like some other people I have read). On the contrary, she’s very funny. Her descriptions of her anguish as she waits for a response from her agent and her suspicion that all her friends are having a party behind her back are great, mostly because I – like most writers – have definitely been there. She puts a humorous spin on the artistic angst that comes with the territory. You may feel like every other writer on the planet sits down at their computer with a sunny disposition and a thousand ideas that pour out like liquid gold onto the page, but that’s simply not true. Lamott’s entertaining wit helped remind me that all this nonsense really is normal, and the only remedy is to get back to writing.

However, this book did not fill me with the heaping piles of inspiration that other writing books have in the past. Some part of me is now filled with the newfound fear that I am neither brave enough nor honest enough to churn out truly excellent fiction. But in the end, perhaps that’s not really the point. After all, if you’re not writing because you want to write – if you just want to be published and receive all the attention and reassurance that you believe it brings (which it really doesn’t) – then maybe you should be rethinking this whole writing thing. To the artist, the creation of the art, however anxiety-ridden or frustrating or exhausting the process may be at times, is its own reward. Sure, it may never be published and nobody but your family may ever read it, but you still can change lives. Maybe even your own.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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