Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I’ve been working my way down Jennifer Weiner’s list of book recommendations for an aspiring writer. First on her list was Stephen King’s “On Writing” next was this one. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott.
This was a gem of a read. You know how you can just tell when someone is honest with you? Anne struck that cord with me. She doesn’t paint writing or life out to be a masterpiece of pastels as she leaps from one whimsical lilly pad to the next, nor is she so self deprecating that you come to understand her bout with alcoholism. Her writing is somewhere in between, a happy medium.

I found myself highlighting her advice over and over again. In comparing King’s book with Lamott’s I have to say King offered more concrete guidance than Anne’s bird by bird, yet what she did recommend didn’t differ from King’s. They had a lot of the same instruction, only King put it harsh and precise while Anne allows you to keep writing even if you never get published, “It is not the publishing. The writing is the gift. The writing is what will save you” I loved that.

I was actually reading her book while I was slaving away on the treadmill this morning. The thought occurred to me, I’m a decent runner. I’m actually a fairly good athlete and I always have been. I’ve participated in more races than I can count. In the arena of fitness I feel I can put a check mark, and comfortably say, I’m there. Though, have I ever won a race? Yes, one. Let me include I won because there was an embarrassingly small amount of participants. Further, I have never made a dime racing and I’d rather not add up all the money I’ve spent in order to pursue such hobbies as triathloning, marathoning, skiing, waterskiing. However these seemingly silly sports have enriched my life. I have so many memories connected to them. Many wonderful people I’ve met along the way. I wouldn’t trade one painful race for anything. They have taught me so much about myself.

It occurred to me, through the reading of this book, Why should writing be any different from this? Anne helped me gain this perspective, an insight I’m grateful for.  
I love how she wrote a humorous book about cancer, because her father lost his life to it, and she wanted to know if she could laugh about it. Her boldness was intoxicating.

I like the bit of advice she gave about how writers should open a door they have been told not to. This is something I got immediately. I came to a halt in my own personal writing because It wasn’t kosher to to open that door and write about the scary monster lurking behind it. Her permission gave me confidence where I was lacking.

You’ll fall in love with her page by page. To put it simply: Anne is a good christian woman, devout in her faith, who’s not afraid of humor or honesty or to use the F Word here and there.  

Anne you get me. Thank you.
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