Since I have somehow found myself reading four books at once, it’s taking me longer than I’d hoped to finish Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and report back. However, even though I am only halfway through this books which boasts “Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” I can already confirm that it is a gem. I’ve been underlining and page folding furiously since I first began Lamott’s round-up of writing advice, interrupting my academic notations only to mentally voice my agreement or slightly cringe at the all too accurate descriptions of the battles one faces when writing.
We all know that books on the craft of writing are rarely able to magically imbue you with the perfect story or the right words. Lamott certainly isn’t offering any easy answers for wrestling your butt onto your chair, but she certainly does offer practical advice for what to do once your tush has actually connected to the seat. So, although I’m saving a full report for when I’ve actually finished the book, in the meantime, here is a round-up of some of my favorite fold-marked remarks thus far. These quotes are simply sentiments that resonated with me— if you want the practical advice on ways to get writing, get character developing, get anything, I wholeheartedly suggest you buy the book.
Excerpts from Bird by Bird:
“My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.“
On the voices in your head while you’re writing: “There’s the vinegar-lipped Reader Lady, who says primly, ‘Well, that’s not very interesting, is it?’…And there are your parents, agonizing over your lack of loyalty and discretion.”
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people…perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).”
“Perfectionism is one way our muscles cramp…They keep up moving and writing in tight, worried ways.”
On learning to be more compassionate towards yourself: learn to treat yourself “as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage.”
“If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days—listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you’ve taken in, all that you’ve overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)”
“To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass—seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one.”
Caryn Wille is a Chicagoan turned Minneapolitan who dreams of one day being a Londoner. You can check out her dreams, or just her marketing and freelance graphic design skills, at Caryn Wille Designs.