Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott wrote Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It’s a book I’ve seen on many lists for writers to read. I doubt anyone can read all the writing books out there and still manage to find time to write, but many find inspiration or small gems of wisdom between the covers.

Lamott made me think in several places. Her tone is very conversational and lends itself well to letting the reader think she’s confiding directly. She amused me when she talked about her successful writer friends and how she felt she couldn’t be friends with them after their success and dealing with her own jealousy.

Some things resonated deeper, though. How do you think your life will change after you’re published? Maybe it seems like the stars will shine down and everything will sparkle, but it’s not going to give you inner validation. She’s definitely right when she says it isn’t going to change who you are. If you’re not enough before, you still won’t be.

[This is not saying it isn’t awesome. It just isn’t everything.]

There’s always going to be someone better, too, or more successful, or even less deserving. But there’s also a reminder there about why we write. It wasn’t just to be rich and famous, was it? Because there seem to be a hundred easier ways to become rich and/or famous besides writing.

Like many others who advise writers, she advocates to write. She employs examples from writing classes and conferences she’s led that illustrate how she handles things like criticism and motivating others. How many of us know how to dish out or receive a critique? Have you thought about what you would say to someone who’s a much less accomplished writer (and likely new to it) that would help them improve and yet not discourage them? It’s one thing to not think you can simply send the story out to be published, but if you crush a beginning writer, what good is that?

After finishing the book, I read the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I think the people who commented either loved it or hated it. Someone gave it a bad review because he (or she, who knows?) received several copies of it. Is that a reason to give a book a bad review? I’m not exactly sure if the commenter even read the book. That seems unfair to me.

But I guess I’d be glad for a lot of reviews on a book of mine. That would mean it was getting read. Like having it in the bargain bin in front of the store – it might be like having the store be completely unconcerned if it got stolen, but it’s much better than being remaindered in the dumpster out back.

I’m glad I read the book. I understand why it’s recommended for writers to read. I definitely see why many believe it to be inspirational. Something about finding someone who understands our feelings can make us more dedicated to the work. Whatever makes us keep writing seems like a good thing to me.

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