WbyW Recommends: Bird By Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

A book that’s inspired me lately is Bird By Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Though first published in 1994, her sensitive and witty insights still resonate. It’s great for when you need rescuing from a creative rut, or a little reminder of all the exhilarating ideas and stories that made you want to write in the first place!

I particularly love this quote, on the wonder of creative writing:

“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after 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. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.” (page 15)

Anne Lamott famously celebrated “shitty first drafts'' as a vital step to embrace, not resist. With Word By Word, it’s wonderful to share a welcoming space where we’re free to experiment - free of judgement.

On the stifling “tidiness” of perfectionism, Lamott writes:

“Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground - you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move” (page 28-29)

Layla Myers

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