Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird: Book Review

Why write…or read for that matter? Both give us the opportunity to better understand who we are and how we behave. Lamott wrote that being a writer gives you the gift of having an excuse to do things and explore. A motivation to look more closely at life.

We can learn a lot about the people we are today by looking at our childhoods. Lamott suggests starting from your childhood and writing all of your memories as truthfully as you can. Which limiting beliefs have we brought with us into adulthood?

Next she recommends writing as much as you can see through a one-inch picture frame. Small bites, one at a time. Such great advice. So many things in life feel overwhelming when we stand back and look at the whole picture. This is where many people get stuck in life. Not knowing where to focus their attention. “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird,” Lamott’s father advised her brother when confronted with what seemed an impossible ornithological challenge. A one-inch picture frame helps you focus in on the details. To see what’s really taking place in a digestible amount.

Shitty first drafts are just as essential in life as they are in writing. Lamott sees a shitty first draft as a place to let it all pour out, knowing no one will ever see it. The mass before it begins to take shape. Like a polaroid developing. At first, you’re not sure what it’s going to be. Then, as the image sharpens, you see all the details coming into focus. The characters emerge. The background becomes clear.

Lamott stated that bad things will need to happen to characters you love. This is also true in life. Pain and suffering are inevitable. How we choose to respond is what makes us who we are. From the plight of our characters grows the plot. Lamott wrote, “If someone isn’t changed, then what is the point of your story?” YES!!! If you aren’t growing and changing in life, you’re dying on the vine. Just like a story with no climax.

As in life, good dialogue captures what is said…and what is not said. Don’t just assume you know a character at first glance. Get to know who they are once the mask has been striped away. Lamott suggests getting quiet and listening to that little voice inside when you don’t know what a character would do or say. This is also wonderful advice for daily life. We should all get quick and listen to our intuition. The voice that many can no longer hear after years of tuning it out because we were afraid of what it might say. Afraid to know, for certain, what’s really going on.

My biggest take away from this book is to write for those you love. Lamott talks about the books she wrote for her dying father and then for a dying friend. It was so touching. A way to keep them and their story going long after they’re gone. Write a love letter for your loved ones. Tell their story. Your memories of them. The way they made you feel. What a gift!

There were so many amazing insightful take aways from this book that couldn’t be included in this review. This was my second time reading it and I feel like it resonated even more this time around. It’s definitely one I’ll read again and again.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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