Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott


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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

"A warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer's world and its treacherous swamps." --Los Angeles Times

Advice on writing and on life from an acclaimed bestselling author:
"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our  family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385480017
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/1995
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 12,755
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

Anne Lamott is the New York Times bestselling author of Help, Thanks, Wow; Small Victories; StitchesSome Assembly RequiredGrace (Eventually)Plan BTraveling Mercies; Bird by BirdOperating Instructions, and the forthcoming Hallelujah Anyway. She is also the author of several novels, including Imperfect Birds and Rosie. A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.


Fairfax, California

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

San Francisco, California


Attended Goucher College in Maryland before dropping out to write

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Bird by Bird (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 143 reviews.
Angela2932ND More than 1 year ago
Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird initial appeal to me was that it looked like a little book that would be an enjoyable guide for writing. And it IS a very enjoyable read that made me want to grab a pen, or computer, and start writing away. She's wonderful at consoling us all for being regular human beings with all our foibles and quirks, and she has an excellent way of making me feel not quite so neurotic after all. But what she doesn't offer is any particular really helpful writing advice. She's creative and clever, and made me laugh a lot. . . and gave me something to do INSTEAD OF writing. But then, at the end of the book, when I tried to grasp hold of exactly what the solid advice, what the actual recommended writing information might have been. . . . I had nothing. But it sure was fun to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a college student reading this book for a writing class, and I can honestly say this is one of the best books about writing I have ever read. My entire class loves this book, and we are quoting from it all the time! Lamott does a great job balancing humor and personal advice about the writing process. Experienced writers will be able to relate to the author's opinions about writing, while beginner writers will pick up some great tips on how to improve their writing skills. This is an awesome book for writers at any level, and I highly recommend it!
a_heart-writer More than 1 year ago
Whether you are an aspiring writer, a published professional, or someone with a sense of humor, Lamott's playful wit will entertain you as she vividly and accurately illustrates the inner workings of a writer's mind. If you are not a writer, yourself, you will identify with the nuggets of wisdom Lamott has weaved into her constructive description of an approach to writing fiction. The main nugget of wisdom - to face overwhelming tasks one step at a time or "bird by bird" - is exemplary of how she takes real life examples and applies her concepts not only to the craft of writing, but also to the art of living.
SW-RALCC More than 1 year ago
The book is about a girl named Anne who grow up living with her mother and father. Her father was a wrtier for a long time and then he developed brain cancer and told her to take notes so that she was able to write about his cancer and what she went through while he had brain cancer. When she became a writer she started helping younger people how to write and told them her experinces on writing. i thought this book was boring in the beginning but then it got better in the middle of the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Concerned that my review of Ann Lamott's 1994 book bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life could not begin to do it justice, I kept putting it off. In fact, this book's advice is so excellent and comprehensive, that I sent a copy of it to an actress friend who is facing severe emotional trauma, with none of it having anything to do with writer's block. By page two of the introduction Ann already had me laughing. She claims it was predicted she'd grow up to be a serial killer, while I had a police officer declare that I would surely attain adulthood as either a murderer, or an actor playing a murderer. At page 205 of this 236-paged paperback, she mentions how a writer must be innocent, of which I certainly am. Only after I am once again blindsided I typically label my actions either naive or ignorant and only sometimes innocent. Like me, the 1950s born Ms.Lamott, also felt different from the other kids and also found her refuge in books. While using less precise and far more esoteric thoughts and words, bird by bird, like Making a Literary Life steps the reader through exactly what must be done if she wishes to become a published author. In her book, Ms. Lamott goes from the actual steps of writing the book, to the writer's mindset, to finding free help, to getting published and indeed, why to even write at all. Speaking as a successful, published author, she thoroughly covers the writer's life in both a humble and humorous fashion. In point of fact, I enjoyed this book so much that I transported out of my usual science fiction genre and went and paid full price for one of her down to Earth novels.
DearReader More than 1 year ago
This book gives real advice to real people trying to get some air under the wings of their writing. It is not intended as a practical how-to-write-a-novel instruction book. It is a advice and encouragement, and an inside look at the habits and approaches she herself takes to sitting down to a blank piece of paper and getting going.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my senior year required reading, and I am honestly grateful that my teacher included it on the list. Bird by Bird is full of little jewels of advice that help not only aspiring authors but also the non-writer. Lamott punctuates her points with anecdotes both comical and sobering, relevant analogies, and wonderfully quotable lines, all while injecting humor into a topic that sorely needed it. I even used her ideas about perfectionism to write my college essay. This is one book that I truly think everyone should pick up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lamott offers little help for practical technical problesm of writing. I was looking for help putting the pieces of a complex novel together into a coherent whole. She gives you a little boost if you have a discouraged attitude. That's about it.
patricia_poland on LibraryThing 2 days ago
With honesty and humor and wisdom, her journey to write becomes yours.
kidsilkhaze on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Anne LaMott's book on life and writing is wonderful and I loved it. It gives wonderful instructions on how to be a writer, as well as support for the angst of it. I laughed out loud, I cried, and I got my journal out again and am back to work on a really really sh--ty first draft.
kathysoper on LibraryThing 2 days ago
A writing guide like no other. Hilarious, irreverent, and thoroughly helpful.
ChuckB on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Get inside a writer's mind and get some advice that sounds true to life and really works!
pw0327 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Well, either way, Ann Lamott has written a simply put and beautifully thought out tome on wiritng. Not how to write, but how to get your gluteus on a chair and fight through all of your inner and outer demons and put yourself on the pages. To take a bold step forward and reveal to the world who you really are. The chapters are well balanced and are invaluable in the philosophical advice it dispenses. That is the beauty of good writing, the universality of the message is such that you can take the philosophy generally or specifically, which ever way you want to take it, the truisms are true. Lamott is well known as a funny but well thought out author on matters spiritual. She does so with great grace and humor. She is able to tell a great story, dispense great wisdom and still make you laugh out loud. Her main vehicle is her self deprecating sense of humor. After a while though, I can see the punch line coming, I can feel her timing and start to expext a funny, knee slapping aside coming on. It got tedius after a while. If she weren't so predictable I would have enjoyed this book much more. Note that this writing strategy did not mitigate the message, nor did it minimize the ideas or the advice. What it did was to decrease the pleasure of reading her prose. It made it common place when the reader is always anticipating the rim shot. One slight quibble. I would love to give this book to a friend's daughter. She is a bright and precocious little girl with a stellar sensibility for good writing. I think she would love the philosophical content immensely and gain much for her own writing from what Lamott has to say. Unfortunately, Lamott has injected just enough expletives in the narrative to make me hesitate. I have always been told that using expletives is a cheap way to achieve emphasis, to make a point by creating shock value. Lamott is way too good of writer to stoop to using expletives in a writing book just to get her point across. I am sure she can find powerful and effective ways to make her point but she chose to mix in the expletives. I am not disturbed by it but I think she missed the boat by doing what she did because it is delaying her outreach to young writers thirsting for advice and knowledge which she has placed in this book. Overall though, it is quite a nice addition to my library, I will be reading and re-reading her wisdom for years to come.
Arctic-Stranger on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Most writers can't teach writing worth a damn. They dont know how they do it, they just do it. Lamott would be the exception. Reading this will not help you write The Great American Novel, but if you have a novel in you, it will help get it out. I am not sure anyone can really teach someone how to be a Great Writer, but Lamott has a lot of wisdom on what it means to be a writer. I can probably sum up her teaching in a few words: If you want to be a writer, then WRITE!
mhgatti on LibraryThing 2 days ago
As the subtitle says, Bird by Bird is about writing and life, but readers familiar with Anne Lamott's other "instructional" books - on child-raising (Operating Instructions) and faith (Traveling Mercies, Plan B) - know Bird is going to be a lot about life and just a little about writing.Lamott, who has become more popular for her non-fiction than her novels, offers would-be novelists thoughts on finding their voices and glimpses at just how unglamorous a writer's life can be. You could easily miss the book's writing lessons, which are surrounded by very personal ( and very entertaining) stories from Lamott's unconventional life, but the writing advice is in there. From those stories, Lamott's readers should find her basic messages (or at least what I saw them to be): Write what you know (or investigate what you're writing about), trust your characters (and keep their actions believable), and don't write using fame or money as your primary inspiration.If aspiring novelists come away from this book without extracting those points from Lamott's stories, they were probably never going to be good storytellers anyway.
rayski on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Anne provides basic thoughts on how to write, but what makes it worth it is that lots of her antidotes can be applied to life too. In a lot of cases to make her writing point she uses life examples. If you¿re not an Anne Lamott fan then take a star away, unless you¿re looking for help to write that autobiography.
jvoorhees on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Don't let anyone tell you that this book is simply about writing. Anytime Anne Lamott writes, it is about life. This book is certainly a great guide to the writing process, but it speaks so deeply to the human condition I place it on par with most any metaphysical tome. Don't put this book down until you are done.
lizatoad on LibraryThing 2 days ago
i love love love this book! i read it first in high school and have returened to it time and again since then. it is fun, good humored and very helpful to anyone who wants to write.
spiketorescue on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I recommend this book to all my friends that write or wish they were writers.
caerulius on LibraryThing 2 days ago
As books on writing go, this is a little gem. Part inspirational/how to book, part memoir, Lamott has written a book on writing that is, quite simply, a pleasure to read. It has good, practical advice and does make you want to set out and write, but doesn't attempt to provide you with a formula for writing, or to give a set of instructions to follow. Lamott knows from experience that writing is an act of creative inspiration, and there is no blueprint for quality writing. But she does explain ways of accessing the observations and stories that can get locked inside, how to keep going when you feel like no one is listening or reading, and how to persevere.
wordygirl39 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I make all my writing students read "Shitty First Drafts" at the beginning of every semester. I don't know that this book gives a lot of real instruction in writing, but it makes writers feel less lonely.
jellyish on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Great read, especially for writers. Anne Lamott cracks me up.
kjarcand on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I received this book as a wonderful birthday present and devoured it in only a few sittings. Lammot has a sense of humor in her writing that not only makes this a good book fro writers, but for anyone with a pulse. I highly recommend this book to my friend who struggle through the ups and downs of writing, and to those who want a little upbeat humor for their life.
marck on LibraryThing 2 days ago
God knows there are a ton of "writing life" kind of books out there, and in that sense Lamott is not saying anything radically different. The thing is that she says it *funnier* than anyone else. It's rare to describe a book like this as a "page-turner," but I really never wanted to put this down until I finished it. And as I write these days, I hear Lamott's voice in a corner of my brain, dropping her witty aphorisms all the time and pushing me along.
saiariddle on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Hilarious, realistic, but also encouraging to any aspiring writer out there. I loved her self deprecating humor. Definitely a book that will spur you on to write more!