Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 Reading Goal: Bird by Bird

My latest book on my 2013 reading challenge is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.

Rating: 5 stars

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

For some reason, I have never gotten around to reading this book until now. I am a big fan of Anne Lamott...mostly only because I fell in love with the book, Traveling Mercies, several years ago. I've tried to read a couple of her other books but never connected with them as much. Even so, I still call myself a big fan of Anne Lamott. And this book reminded me why I do.

I checked this book out from the library and immediately regretted not owning it. I used 22 sticky notes to mark passages/pages/excerpts that I adored...and that was me being conservative.

This book is a guide to writing. A very helpful, funny, and practical guide. But Lamott is able to do so much more with it then just tell you how to write. She tells you why it is so important to write and to read. 

Throughout the book she tells these stories that are dark, haunting, and beautiful. She shows how important the process of writing is...both for ourselves and as readers. She writes, "Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world...Books helps us understand who we are and how we are to believe....they show us how to live and die. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift."

She inspires us to find the truths inside ourselves that need to be told. That need to be added to this conversation. She says, "You need to put yourself at their center, you and what you believe to be true or right. The core, ethical concepts in which you most passionately believe are the language in which you are writing. Telling these truths is your job. You have nothing else to tell us."

So much of what she says makes me love books even more. I love the idea of connecting with the truths that other authors have inside them. I love the idea that I'm seeing whats important to someone else...what they've noticed and seen to be true. Lamott writes, "Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you're conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader." I love those moments that I have in books and I love the idea that it comes from the author really caring about the truths inside and around them.

She wants us to wake up, look around, and care for the people around us in order so that we can be more truthful in portraying the world around us. She says, "I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here?" So she shows us some examples throughout about the times when she has reverently watched and been apart of the world. From one especially beautiful story, she says, "...there is still something to be said for painting portraits of the people we have loved, for trying to express those moments that seem so inexpressible beautiful, the ones that change us and deepen us."

In the last paragraph she sums it up perfectly when asked the question of why writing matters. She says, "Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul."

My 4th lesson of 2013 is:  Find the truths that are important to me so I can add to the conversation that I love so much. The best way to do that is by reading, watching, and listening to the world around me. And by being disciplined in writing. Every day!


As I mentioned in my 2013 goal, I’m reading mostly women lit that focuses on women authors or complicated, strong female characters this year. Here is the list of my previous book reviews that I've done on this journey:

First: Madame Bovary.
Second: Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress.
Third: Patron Saint of Liars.

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