Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”
My very first class in college in the US and my very first class of the day was Creative Writing. My professor, Michael (his last name has left my memory), was incredible in his ability to coax us out of our early morning stupor and enable us to think in complete, creative sentences. His gift for teaching writing to a class of teenagers was God-given. He instilled in us a desire to write, to express ourselves, to share our rudimentary skills in writing with each other to be critiqued, and to learn from our mistakes. He did all this without ever forcing us to do it. It just seemed to come to us naturally. Since we did not have any required textbooks for this class, Michael asked us all to purchase this book and swore that we would always want to read it at different parts of our lives. He was right. I have read this book three times now, and will probably read it a few more times in my life.
If you have wondered if you could be a writer, or what being a writer is all about, or how to express your feelings adequately in the written form, this book is a must read. Lamott is engaging, funny, and direct in her approach to life and writing. She offers all the basic instructions you will ever need to get your creative juices flowing. Lamott discusses each aspect of writing, interspersed with some life lessons, with a sense of reality. She talks about how to get started, how first drafts are usually not so great, how to develop a character and a plot, and writer's block, among other valuable topics.
I have found myself coming back to this book many times as my desire to write and better express myself surfaces from time to time. My professor was right—I do use this book more often that I thought I would. I am currently working on three challenges—a writing challenge, a reading challenge, and a workout challenge. Crazy? Absolutely! What is life if you are not willing to become a better person? Bird by Bird helps me thoughtfully and creatively express my experiences in all three of these challenges, and thereby update my blog as well. A win-win situation, don't you think?