As someone who reads mostly craft book on the subject of writing, at first, I found Anne Lamott’s famous Bird by Bird disappointing. Certainly, she touches on craft in passing but never goes into specifics, which the good student part of my heart so craves. But I’d borrowed the book from a friend in exchange for loaning him Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel (review here) and felt compelled to give it more than my usual effort to enjoy and finish.
Once I got over the lack of direct craft advice, I found myself sinking into Lamott’s beautiful metaphors. Her gentle wisdom began to touch my writer’s soul and whisper, “Hey, I understand you. Your kind, and by that I mean writers, have kindred spirits out there. You’re not alone.” It was like the first writing conference I went to. I looked around at all the nervous, eager, dream-filled people with pens and paper always within reach and felt, for the first time, like I’d found my species.
While I don’t agree with every single word in this book, nor do I think Lamott paints an exact picture of every author, it still resonates with depth, compassion, and humanity.
If you’re looking for craft advice, I do not recommend Bird by Bird. There are far better, more detailed books out there. But if you want a salve to a lonely writer’s soul, it’s a wonderful book. If you want to understand your writer relative or friend, the passages in Bird by Bird give beautiful, aching insights into us. Or if you’re not certain if you really are a writer, check Anne Lamott’s classic out. If something in it speaks to you on a spiritual level, touches your heart, or haunts your dreams, then yes, you probably are a writer.
Join me here on Monday for the next section of our read of Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover.
What writing craft books or books of wisdom do you enjoy?