Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Book Review by Anita Flowers, Pinnacle Associate and Writing Coach


Almost every list of “must-read books for writers” includes Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Bird by Bird is an almost classic, released in 1995, but just as instructive and applicable today as it was then. The title comes from a story Anne tells. Her older brother, who was ten years old at the time, had procrastinated on a school assignment and was trying to finish a report on birds that he he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. Lamott writes “...he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencil 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.” That’s what you get in Lamott’s book of advice to writers and to anyone who wants to live life a little more deeply. A piece by piece, bird by bird, look at the writing life.
Lamott believes in short assignments, terrible first drafts, writing in a one inch picture frame, mistakes and writing partners. She takes notes on index cards and always carries one with her in her back pocket “folded lengthwise, if you need to know, so that, God forbid, I won’t look bulky.” With her wry and often hilarious wit, Lamott encourages us to just sit down and get started and notes that “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.”
Broken into five parts, Bird by Bird offers advice on getting started, overcoming perfectionism, and creating writing that is alive and vibrant. She writes “The very first thing I tell my students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.”
Lamott writes.... “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.“ Bird by Bird certainly turns the lights on for the art and practice of writing.

Contact Anita to see how a writing coach can accelerate your writing. anitaf@pinnaclelead.com or 843-224-2025.
Helen