Thursday, September 28, 2017

SFRB Recommends 76: Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer's life. From "Getting Started,' with "Short Assignments," through "Shitty First Drafts," "Character," "Plot," "Dialogue." all the way from "False Starts" to "How Do You Know When You're Done?" Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses "Writers Block," "Writing Groups," and "Publication."
If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.

This book doesn't shy away from the frustration and drudgery that's part of the writing craft. It's as if you have a writer friend to bellyache and sympathize with who's got a twisted sense of humor. She'll talk you through the hard parts, when you just want to burn everything and hide in a corner.

Lamott says it's okay to be neurotic about your writing, it's okay to despair over setbacks. These happen and are normal. The advice is grounded and sometimes harsh, so may not be for everyone. I disagree with a bunch of the metaphors she makes later in the book, but I still laughed and felt reassured.

The core of the advice, though, is about how to crank out the first draft: just write it and don't worry that it's awful. This has since been popularized by Nanowrimo (Bird by Bird was published 1995). The sections on publishing are out of date, so are more interesting as a historical note.

This recommendation by Lee Koven.

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