Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

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Cover image provided with permission by Random House

I think this might be the most perfect book I have read on the subject of writing, it actually might be the most perfect book I have read, period. I have fallen in love with Anne Lamott’s writing style recently: crisp, funny, sad, and honest, she has come to me at a point in my life when I have fallen and gotten back up enough times to realize there is humor and grace in our darkest moments. In understanding this have I found freedom in sharing and saying “Hey! Yes, life can be terrible, but it also can be beautiful and you have to take the messy parts to experience the miraculous joy that is there too.”

I haven’t always been here, a few years ago while pregnant with my daughter, a friend recommended Lamott’s “Operating Instructions”, a book she wrote on raising her son as a single mother. It’s dark, she swears a lot, she’s a recovering alcoholic, and it made me feel uncomfortable. I wanted to project myself as a beautiful, clean, perfect mother, and I did not approve of swearing in front of my child(!). I returned the book after a few chapters, I didn’t think I was anything like this woman, I was completely confident in my worldview, I did not need to hear about her spiritual journey and bouts of depression. I was judgemental pretty out of touch, honestly.

A few years later of wonderful highs, along with some real lows and moments of grace, Lamott feels like a friend, sometimes she feels like me, and her depiction of the writing process is very real and very human. I love that she cares about her readers, she does not try to instill some kind of magical idea that one will become successful beyond all expectations if they just try hard enough: we are not all going to be Kristin Hannah. She writes so eloquently about the ups, but mostly downs of the writing process: the jealousy of watching others succeed, the stress of waiting for your writing to be reviewed, the pain of a bad review, and that getting published is not all it’s cracked up to be. Writing is important because of what is learned through the process, not because of its potential for success or notoriety. Here is my most favorite quote from the book (and I had many favorite quotes):

“I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it, and I don’t think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect. You don’t want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can’t fill up when you’re holding your breath. And writing is about filling up, filling up, when you are empty, letting images and ideas and smells run down like water…”

While this book is mainly on writing, Lamott experiences writing as part of life, so it also has a lot of great insights on the human experience and spirituality as well (Lamott is a Christian- a very liberal Christian). I would recommend this book to writers (and a writer is one who writes, not just someone who gets paid to do some), those looking for spiritual insights, and anyone who has fallen on their face enough to know it’s the getting up part that really matters.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Published: September 1, 1995

I read this as: a library book

If you enjoy this book you may like:

Calypso by David Sedaris

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

It’s been a minute

It’s been a minute

flat lay photography of calendar

I started writing earlier this year with high hopes. I was going to read three books a week, blog once a week, and become the book influencer I have always imagined in my heart I could be. Here is what happened instead:

  1. I blogged a few times a month up until June when I completely stopped (whoops!)
  2. I have read 72 books so far this year, which if I do the math equals almost 1.5 books a week. Honestly that’s pretty good I’m going to pat myself on the back for that one.
  3. Managing my neighborhood library has always been a dream of mine so when the opportunity to transfer to my local branch came up, I took it. This meant leaving the library where I’ve spent most of my career with co-workers and customers that I love; it was a decision that was made with a lot of tears. A few months in I’m starting to get my groove back and really enjoying my new staff and customers, but this was definitely a big shift in my life.
  4. I was given the opportunity to review books for Booklist, a librarian book magazine from ALA. So while I can’t say I’ve become a book influencer, I can almost call myself a book professional, which maybe sounds better(?)
  5. I made new friends, which was my secret goal for this year. Since I moved to RVA 8 years ago I was really focused on my career, then I was really focused on my daughter, and all the sudden I realized I had kind of dug myself into a lonely little hole of my own creation. To me, making new friends after 30 is as terrifying as dating, and I have felt the paralyzing fear of gearing myself up to ask for someone’s number. However through yoga, church, my neighborhood, and just trying to ignore the fear of rejection, I’ve been able to reach out and build a small network of people in the area.
  6. I’ve grown my yoga, meditation, and spiritual practice, I’m able to manage my emotions and stress better, and I’m more aware of what my body and spirit are experiencing.

There have been some down moments as well this year, but overall it’s been a period of growth for me. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished even if I didn’t get done everything that was on my list, and I’ve missed another year of becoming an internet celebrity (shoot!). My hope for next year is to continue to write, I don’t know in what capacity, but stringing words together is where I feel most creative, and I definitely want more creativity in my life.