“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen our sense of life: they feed the soul”Anne Lamott
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d has three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” – An Iconic passage that gives the book its title
During my childhood days, I was this kid who was always curious about reading things written at unusual places. Catchy sentences from books, inspiring quotes, weird shayaris written on the backside of the truck and things written on walls always amused me. I also had this habit of writing things in my diary or notebook. I never imagined that this is the thing I liked the most and this will give me utmost satisfaction in my life. When I started reading this fascinating book by the author Anne Lamott, I felt as if she is telling me to do the same. She wants writers to observe, appreciate and simply write about everything you see, hear, read, and think. She emphasises that writers should be afraid of not getting the writing done rather being tensed about how it will look and how people will see you.
And I would suggest people to read this book because it is not only about writings but also about life. The best thing about this book is that instructions on writing are intertwined with Lamott’s life that makes it easier to relate.
The book is neatly divided into five parts. The author has shared the instructions step by step in these five parts. The first part is about getting the writing started, the second part speaks about the writing frame of mind, the third part describes small habits that can help in your writing journey, fourth part talks about the ultimate goal of every writer; publication and other reasons you need to start writing and the final part is about the author’s last class on writing where she highlights the role of being a writer and how writers play an important role to show a mirror to the society.
The best advice the author has for the budding writers is the actual act of writing. It has its own rewards. It is one of the best parts of writing as it has so much to give and teach. The author has poured out her heart as a writer in this book. She honestly tells all the writers to start writing as all good writings begin with terrible first effort. We all have to write that shitty first drafts and edit it, again and again, to make it crisp and clear.
Stories are mostly the same but the difference comes when someone shares their own sensibility or especially their own version of the truth. And as the author agrees that the ‘truth’ is the bedrock of life. Whatever experience you had in your life, no one can share better than you in your own voice. Something very unique, I found in the book, as the author says ‘writing’ is like ‘giving’. A writer gives her soul and deepest part of her life into writing. Reading something gives us that feeling of connection, it enriches your soul. A writer soothes the reader’s soul by giving a company and reducing isolation.
The author gave some clear instructions that need to be followed if you want to improve your writing skills or want to continue being a writer:
- Sit down to write at approximately same time every day. This is how you can train your unconscious to kick-in for you.
- Write at least 300 words every day. Write about anything, about your dreams, aspirations, childhood memories, etc
- Keep index cards with you all the time and scribble on it whenever you find something interesting
- Observe/ Look around and write about these things
- Call people and connect with them to know their perspective
- Find someone reliable who can read your draft before you show it to the world
- Be part of a writing group that will motivate you to write
- Find your voice or write whatever your intuition says
- Write about your childhood
- Write as if you are dying
- Forget about what people will think of your writing rather focus on just writing
I will end with some of the beautiful excerpts from the book to inspire and motivate you to write without any hesitation because as Anne Lamott reiterates in the book, writing and reading decreases our sense of isolation. They deepen, widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.
“Good writing is about telling the truth”
” We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are”
“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious”
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better”
“Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.”
“Process of writing is pretty much the same for almost everyone I know”
“Becoming a writer can also profoundly change your life as a reader. One reads with a deeper appreciation and concentration, knowing now how hard writing is, especially how hard it is to make it look effortless. You begin to read with a writer’s eyes”
“Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on”
“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they have done it”
“All the good stories are out there waiting to be told in a fresh, wild way.”
BOOKS -“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave”
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us”