I have read so many books on the subject of writing. I used to borrow them from libraries, buy them online and hope for the best that THIS time I would gain some insight.
As a teenager I felt that the literary world was such a closed shop that even asking another writer for advice sounded like I was trying to steal their thunder. Did they think I would dissect their mind and steal their plots? During this chapter of my life I read some really bad books, from “you can be a millionaire” to the more common sense ones…why am I reading this? I know all of this. So, if I have read them all and I know it all then why am I not living in my Gothic mansion, sitting at my computer writing chilling ghost stories whilst my house staff attend to my meals and cups of English Breakfast Tea? Well, it doesn’t really work that way. This book will tell you so. I am glad it has told me so because my darlings, I am a fantasist and a romantic that sometimes needs bringing down to earth, ok well most of the time but the point is when it comes to writing – Anne was the one to do it.
Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is a wonderfully funny and no-bullshit approach to the life of a writer. It isn’t a list of things you must do and it doesn’t blind you with promise of money; quite the opposite. It is refreshing and inspirational and will probably make you realise how much of a bohemian fop you have been about it all (or is that just me?) In this tome Anne points out how we desperately need to be realistic about this writing life we wish to pursue and then we need to get out there and work damn hard. We are all guilty of writing a novel and then hoping we can quit our job but it needs a little bit more work than that. Anne’s wisdom and experience is quite a rare find in the literary world, it comes from a very personal place and as time goes on she has gathered her experiences and presents an honest and vulnerable account of how she came to be a writer. She pushes the reader to get out and experience life as this is one of the many gifts of a writer: One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around. Sitting at our desk all day long doesn’t make for very inspirational working. Dreaming about perfection? No, that doesn’t work either.
This book is very practical with personal experiences weaved in, these help to validate her voice , it makes you feel like she is talking to you; you are her pupil and you desperately want to learn.