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am 17. Juni 2000
If there's a better book to read when you're doubting yourselfand your writing ability, I don't know what it is. IF YOU WANT TOWRITE by Brenda Ueland may be more profound, but it's not as funny... I don't think Lamott copied Ueland at all. Both books are wonders, Ueland's more spiritual or mystical--i.e. how to express your own unique self and write your truth--and Lamott's more worldy--how to get your rear in gear and start producing copy. Lamott's chapter on crumby first drafts lets you know you must start somewhere and can't do that if you're constantly criticizng and editing yourself. And she is so right--once you have a beginning, you can make it better..and better...and better. She doesn't really tell you how to do that in very specific terms, but for that there's great sourcebooks like SELF EDITING FOR FICTON WRITERS and ON WRITING WELL, which more than cover the job. Bird by Bird may be short on craft, but it's long on motivation, humor, and practical ways to get yourself writing.
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am 4. August 2004
Anne Lamott isn't afraid to expose her fears, joys or idiosyncrasies. This book is a combination of a guide towards writing and a self-parodying autobiography. For any would be writer, Anne has several clever ideas on how to start, get going or just finish that darn manuscript we all think we have inside of ourselves. Sometimes she seems crazy, sometimes a genius, but she is always witty, endearing and entertaining. If you ever want to read an `in-your-face' reality-check book about writing that will encourage you to write and make you laugh, grab this book. It is pure joy!
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am 1. August 2000
--right up there with Lamott's "Operating Instructions." This book may not help you much if you're looking to improve your writing, but it may be the best book you'll ever find to help you get over your blocks and WRITE.
Lamott has a gift for looking at the world and especially herself with meticulous and embarrassing honesty and finally loving and accepting what she sees. Readers who are into Zen or a similar spiritual practice will find inspiration here for their practice as well as their writing.
(Also recommended for encouraging you in creative expression and befriending yourself: Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" and Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" and "Wild Mind.")
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am 10. Oktober 1999
The title's perfect for this book: Bird By Bird offers a bird size portion of writing instruction. What it does provide is a hefty serving of hope for any writer with nothing to say, little talent, and a lot of pages to fill. What's sad is the author's total lack of respect for emerging writers. She cares little about teaching, and instead uses her bully pulpit to justify a very troubled life. Anyone can sympathize with a sad past, but does leading such a life qualify one to advise others? I think not. If you want to learn to write buy any other book. If you want to support those who need helpp with addictions, donate to a worthy charity.
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am 9. März 2000
Anne Lamott writes more eloquently than most on the trauma of writer's block. When a professor of mine spoke highly of BIRD BY BIRD, knowing I was studying flow for my own (subsequently bestselling) book WRITING IN FLOW, I was prepared to dislike it. After all, Lamott's novels are hardly famous, and the book she did begin to get known for is a memoir of the first year of her son's life. Since I started and stopped something similar, I was jealous.
But then I fell under her spell. Bird by Bird is a very funny book, and most of the humor is the endearingly self-deprecating kind. Besides, Lamott speaks openly of her own jealousy of any writer friend who is slightly more successful at the moment than she is. I'm a sucker for honesty.
Don't read this book to be entertained however. Read it to find out something about designing a plot, creating characters, and writing dialogue. Read it to find out how good writing happens. According to Lamott, it happens when "you sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your subconscious to kick in for you creatively." The honest part comes you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child."
This quick-reading book is filled with fresh anecdotes, personal revelations, and practical tips about taking notes, writing groups, and who should read your drafts. You complete it all in a rush ending with the reassuring sense that regular people, like the author and yourself, if you work harder than you expected to have to, can produce something very good. And although Lamott mainly writes about her own individual experiences, her insights and advice coincide nicely with what I found to be true by interviewing 76 top novelists and poets for my WRITING IN FLOW.
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am 21. April 2000
I first encountered Bird by Bird in my college Comp I class. My professor read us the part about school lunches, and had us all write an exercise from it. A year later, I took the same professor's Creative Writing class, and Bird by Bird was one of the text book's we used. I was thrilled. We were to read the book, and write an essay about what it had meant to us for part of the final grade in the class. That was one of the easiest assignments I've ever had. The hardest part was where to stop! Since then, Bird by Bird has been on and off a shelf next to my computer: on the shelf, waiting like a good friend to lend encouragement at a glance, off the shelf in those times when I've found writing difficult and needed a little more in-depth look at the "why"s of writer's block. I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys writing, knows someone who does, or just likes a good read now and then. It's very entertaining, and gives a good perspective as to what's really going on in a writer's mind and life.
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am 4. August 1998
I picked this book up after hearing an audiotape of Anne Lamott talking about creativity and writing. I am not a writer or writter wannabe; I just liked her story telling. In reading "Bird by Bird," I discovered the same entertaining, laugh-out-loud story telling, used to teach her own particular brand of "how to write." It also became clear to me that the principles and techniques she was presenting are universal - they apply not only to writing, but to any pursuit or activity in life. The book is, in fact, a guide to living (intended? unintended? who knows, and who cares...). So whether you're looking for specific techniques for writing (in particular, fiction), looking for an entertaining read, or want to have your thinking provoked, I highly recommend "Bird by Bird." (Incidentally, as a result of reading the book, I was inspired to do some recreational writing...)
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am 4. Juni 2000
I've read a number of other books on this subject, and none of them comes close to this one in wit and enlightenment. Not that I profess to be a writer, but I do believe that it is one of the hardest, lonliest, and most punishing of professions. Ms. Lamott's honest yet encouraging depiction of the travails of anyone crazy enough to try his/her hand at this, ALMOST makes ME feel crazy enough ... A bonus is her eloquent musings on the-meaning-of-it-all, equal to the efforts of famous philosophers.
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am 15. Dezember 1999
If you've ever thought of signing up for one of those writers workshops with some successful wordcrafter but were put off by the price or the possibility of somebody asking, "What are YOU doing here?" this is your chance to do a test-run on what it might really be like.
If Anne Lamott's workshops are anything like her book "Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life," then whatever the cost - dollars or pride - it will be worth the price of admission.
Lamotte is funny - poking fun at herself as well as doing a running, withering commentary on society and human nature. No thought is too important to permit a digression which is part of her style of writing (and speaking?). On the other hand, no thought is too trivial to put on a 3X5 card for possible intrusion (not a Freudian Slip, thank you!) in something she is writing or saying. Her philosophy of life and writing seems to be: If the shoe fits, it probably isn't yours, but wear it anyway. Whoever left it for you should have been more careful where they leave their shoes.
Besides the fun, no there's nothing besides fun in life - except despair and you don't want to go there - the fun in no way takes anything away from Lamott's sound advice for writers, especially those with low self-esteem, poverty status, lack of writing skills, and nagging in-laws who wonder why you don't get a REAL job.
Her practical advice includes: getting started (sit down everyday, same time, same place, quiet your mind, and start writing until you "get to that one long paragraph that was what you had in mind when you started, only you didn't know that, couldn't know that, until you got to it"); try doing short assignments ("...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." E. L. Doctorow); developing characters ("Just don't pretend you know more about your characters than they do, because you don't. Stay open to them. It's teatime and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It's that simple."); and plot (Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen.").
One of my favorite chapters is "Broccoli" which begins with Mel Brooks' old routine in which a psychiatrist advises a patient, "Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it." Don't try to find out who that psychiatrist is - she's booked up 'til January 3000! Lamotte is affirming the shy attribute of intuition - trust it, tease it, test it, listen to it, get to know it. There is a gentle, tender, wondrous part of each of us that aches to be honored and invited to tea with our other toys, but like E.T., it has the right stuff to transform our lives and awaken the dolls.
"Bird by Bird" offers the pat on the back and kick in the pants every aspiring writer needs. Lamott does not think everybody who writes should publish . But she does believe everybody who wants to write should do it! There are characters in each of us just waiting to enter the stage of our minds and come to life. So, what are you waiting for? Get started all ready! They may not wait for ever.
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am 2. Mai 2000
I can't believe that no one else has recognized that Bird by Bird is nothing but a rehash of Brenda Ueland's book, If You Want to Write--A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Only Ms. Ueland did it so much better--back in the 1930's. The original author teaches us how to write--without all the self-serving rhetoric of the copycat.
Grab a copy of If You Want to Write--get the real McCoy.
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