A Monthly Book Review Publication

February 8, 2020 By Shema Bukhari

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” is a book written by – an American novelist – Anne Lamott, who has written masterpieces like ‘Travelling Mercies’, ‘Operating Instructions’, ‘Blue Shoe’, ‘Rosie’, ‘The Writing Frame of Mind’ and many more.

“Bird by Bird” was first published in 1994 and up till now, it has not lost its charm. The book was most probably written to help the new writers to hon their writing skills; actually turned out to be a manuscript that addresses the issues that haunt and demonize all the budding writers. Anne Lamott has very extensively detailed her own frame of mind and thought processes while writing the books and juggling between expectations and no expectations from her works.

Anne Lamott

Flipping through the pages, the one point that became very prominent, was her constant presence and interaction with the readers. Not at any single page, she gave the list of rules that would do magic and turn anyone into an excellent writer. She kept on insisting that as writers, each one of us has to explore and understand ourselves. We have to dig into our childhood and write about it.

In a very pleasing way, Anne Lamott takes the readers through her own life story and struggles. It is done so effectively that almost all of us can actually relate to her struggles.

Another important point she kept on reiterating was that some writers have high expectations after getting their book printed. “It provides some sort of primal verification: you are in print; therefore you exist.” But the thrill of the first print might not be even close to your expectations. In her humorous way, she insists that we as writers need to say grounded because the universe is not going to change overnight.

Although there is no solid formula of writing presented by the writer but she did mention again and again, ‘“Do it every day for a while,” my father kept saying. “Do it as you would do scales on the piano. Do it by prearrangement with yourself. Do it as a debt of honour. And make a commitment to finishing things.”’

Another factor that contributes to writing is the habit of reading. Read everything and anything. Similarly, write everything. If you cannot find an idea to write on then write about yourself. Just write.

For me, on a personal level, I enjoyed reading the descriptions, analogies, and references she has used to bring a certain point at home.

In a nutshell, the following lines sum up the whole process of writing:

“You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you. You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.”


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