Books and Me: Bird by Bird

Book Title: Bird by Bird – Some instructions on writing and life

Author: Anne LamottBird by Bird Book Cover

As one who is keen on keeping my writing spirits high, I love to read books that speak about the art and craft of writing. Though I have begun to see redundancy in the inputs provided by the self-help variety even in this segment, I still enjoy reading them. Amongst this genre I truly enjoy books that strike a chord at the philosophical level. Since most of the ‘to-do’ aspects of this genre is repetitive and becomes an excuse from actual practice, the philosophical intent needs tremendous reiteration to develop and retain the right attitude.

Anne Lamott’s beautifully titled book speaks about the only way to making big projects happen, including big writing projects. In fact it is the only way to make any project happen. How does one finish a 800 page text book project – in Anne Lamott’s language: ‘bird by bird’. This little piece of advice is all that one needs to imbibe before getting down to work. If one learns to look at all the writing tips provided in the book from this overarching idea, it seems simple. But the biggest challenges for a writer trying to put the ‘bird by bird’ philosophy to work are:

  • Being disciplined and committed to the art called writing
  • Understanding the vocation called writing in spirit

As a thinker and writer I loved the philosophical underpinnings of the author. I am sure many other readers could have found the book a little preachy and spiritual. Many readers could have been disappointed from the book as it provides very less inputs on what to do to improve the writing. There are many other books for that – but something that every artist needs to understand and internalize is that writing itself is the reward for writing. Every artist needs to internalize this subtle piece of knowledge and remain immersed in it as we produce, rather attempt to produce one more piece of creative work.

The book contains some interesting anecdotes, personal experiences of the author, number of beautiful and deeply influential quotes, and further references for reading. At some portions of my reading I found the author bordering on strong philosophical concepts. As a student of Vedanta, I found this an interesting extension of philosophy in practice. Overall I enjoyed the book and convinced myself that I must continue to write for writing’s sake. The book also has induced in me a strong thought to re-look at my priorities with respect to writing and everything else I do in life. At many points in the book one is bound to stop, put down the book and delve into contemplation. This deep reflection and thinking is essential to all creative pursuits and many times even to live life at large. The book is a strong trigger of passive passion and I am sure it will make you ponder on the innermost purpose of life. While most of the discussions in the book are from a writer’s perspective, it will not be too difficult to extend the learning to other spheres of activities as well.

Happy Reading and hopefully happy writing as well!

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