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Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


The Bottom Line

Anne Lamott's funny and astute 1994 book on writing is a classic in the genre with good reason.
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  • Down-to-earth and often funny advice on writing.
  • Anne Lamott encourages writers to be easy on themselves while practicing discipline.
  • Practical advice on all aspects of the writer's life.


  • May come across as slightly New Agey to some writers.


  • Anne Lamott give witty and wise advice on the process of writing.
  • Though not an overtly religious book, does have a religious undercurrent.
  • An entertaining and inspiring take on the difficult parts of the writing life.

Guide Review - Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird

Like another classic work in the field, Writing Down the Bones, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions for Writing and Life encourages writers to take a more non-judgmental attitude toward their own writing. Though Lamott is Catholic where Goldberg is Buddhist, her advice and attitude toward writing dovetails with Goldberg in a striking way. Covering everything from plot to professional jealousy, Lamott's down-to-earth approach is both comforting and encouraging.

Down-to-earth, sometimes personal, and often funny, her approach to writing rang true with me throughout the book. For instance, her belief in "shitty first drafts" was a welcome reminder that it's not going to come out right the first time around:

I know some great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much...Very few writers know what they're going until they've done it.
Passages like these remind us that it's OK to be human, to produce uninspired work and to feel, at times, discouraged. Lamott is very frank with her own struggles, which makes my own seem infinitely more acceptable.
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