Each summer I draft a reading list that always grows faster than I can keep up with like the unruly tomato vines that have overtaken my mom’s garden.
But today, I had a small victory and finished Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott — book that’s been on the list since 2004. Clearly, I have a ways to go.
Lamott has published six novels, three autobiographical books on her faith and writes columns. This is my first read, and I am hooked. Reading Bird by Bird was like having coffee with an old friend. She shares practical writing tips in a hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is fashion. And her imagery and use of figurative language is just ridiculous. Here are a few of my favorite snippets…
“Writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.”“Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.”“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow…For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”“E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”