Bird By Bird
Highly recommended in the writing forums I wanted to buy this one. It was not available in India so, I decided to buy it from Amazon as a gift for myself.
As I opened that neat little card board box me anticipation was in the air. Books are what I really like to splurge. They are my strength and weakness at the same time..
Anne Lamott published her first novel,’ Hard Laughter’ in 1980. Though I have not read any of her novels I am sure she must have done a great job. I will definitely try to read more of her books.
So that evening gave me an opportunity and time to start reading the book. The book is easy to read and very interesting. The witty sarcasm underlines the insightful writing. It educates without preaching and that speaks volumes.
From the first page, the book captured my attention and the first impression carried throughout to the last page. At no point, I wanted to stop and yet at every point I paused reading, thinking and assimilating what the writer was saying.
She tells you the real story of a writer far away from the limelight. All of us who write for our own sake and also who aspire to become famous. Now here lies a big difference when we write as a hobby with our profession being something else we enjoy it with no pressures but when you write to earn a living the situation transforms drastically.
How many times do we sit and stare at the blank wall or the screen or the paper choked of ideas which do not flow? If we try to force the stream is unnatural and hence artificial. We have to wait until the time is right. As she says we have plots, characters and insights like a Christmas tree decorations and we need to put the appropriate ornaments on the correct tree.
Disciplining yourself to write every day is a lonely business. Anne rightly tells you about that imaginary radio in our minds, which does not let us do anything that is where she mentions ‘Broccoli’. I was startled by a totally mundane word as ‘ for the voice of intuition but yes as she says it worked for her. It can also be a ‘cabbage’ or ‘cauliflower’.
The shitty first drafts may be untidy in every sense yet have an immense potential to develop into great stories, articles and wonderful novels. I found Anne’s advice of starting your work of writing at the same time every day very effective. Yes it is difficult and it is not easy and not every day you have the ‘aha’ moments when a story is perfectly delivered to you by the Angels. Writing to earn a living requires mental and physical strength. It is a job with no fixed pay at the end of the month.
The chapters give you clear insights of the psyches of a writer and the readers. A MUST read for all, whether you write to earn your living, or it is a hobby, or you just like to read and think. It makes you smile, nod your head in an affirmation and sometimes laugh at the sheer sincerity as the writer reveals her feelings, which are perhaps universal. To quote Anne-
“The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.”
The chapter in which Anne describes her Aunt making the lemonade is so vivid I almost could taste it. With moist eyes, I read and felt the pain. And about her friend Pammy, her son Sam…all are so stunning.
I read this in the months of Jan and Feb, it is a small book. I could have finished reading in a day, but I wanted to savor it as a chocolate let it linger in my mind, touch my heart to put fire in my wings to soar in the skies in search of plots.
Yes, take it Bird by Bird.
Thanks Anne for sharing your life and experiences with the readers in this captivating book.
Just the few sentences I loved-
“I am not suggesting that you want to be an author who tells a story in order to teach a moral or deliver a message. If you have a message as Samuel Goldwyn said, send a telegram.”
“As we live we begin to discover what helps in life and what hurts and our character acts this out dramatically. This is moral material. The word moral has such bad associations; with fundamentalism, stiff-necked preachers priggishness We have to get past that If you deepest beliefs drive your writing, they will not keep your work from being contrived but will help you discover what drives your characters.”
“In good fiction, we have one eye on the hero or the good guys and a fascinated eye on the bad guys who may be a lot more interesting. The plot leads all of these people (and us) into dark woods where we find, against all odds a woman or a man with the compass and it still points true north. That is the miracle and it is astonishing. This shaft of light sometimes, only a glimmer both define and thwart the darkness.”
Read this book even if you do not write , it tells you about living life.