I appreciate a person with initiative, so when Jared Hollier responded to a query I put up for guest bloggers on BlogRocket, I was quick to take him up on his offer, especially when he told me he wanted to review one of my favorite books of all time – Bird by Bird. . . A new friend writing about a good book – that’s what I call a good day.
â€œThe very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do.â€
-Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, pg. 3
If good writing is about â€œtelling the truthâ€, then Anne Lamottâ€™s Bird by Bird is one of the best books on writing available today. She has managed to publish a book about writing without turning it into another textbook about grammar and â€œfinding your voiceâ€- it feels more like a conversation with a really smart, and really funny, friend who just happens to be an award-winning and highly successful author.
Parts of it are moving and heart-warming (in the chapter titled â€œWriting a Presentâ€ she explains how two of her books were written for friends dying of cancer), others are ridiculously funny (a chapter called â€œShitty First Draftsâ€ needs no explanation), but all of them usher the reader to the same conclusion: Writing is hard work, but totally worth it.
One of the things I appreciated most about the book was Lamottâ€™s honesty about the process of writing. Too many books on writing are full of technical tips, â€œhow-toâ€ chapters, and writing exercises. While there are a few of those things in Bird by Bird, itâ€™s mostly an honest look at the act of writing. If you want to write something, a novel for instance, you have to come up with good ideas, sit down at a computer, and type one word at a time, for a very long time, and more than just once. Every book ever written has had an author- someone who sat down and actually did the work of writing.
In various chapters, she takes the reader through all the emotions involved in trying to do the work- the elation of inspiration, the frustration of â€œwriterâ€™s blockâ€, the desire to give up and set fire to any evidence that you even attempted to be a writer- but her bottom line is to keep doing it. Get back to it, a little at a time, and finish what you started.
Another important, and thoroughly explained, point the author makes is the distinction between the desire to write and the desire to be published. Many people, she explains, want the thrill of being published without the burden of actually having to write. The life of a published author seems glamorous- tours, book signings, interviews, money, money, money. Again, her encouragement is to do the work of writing. Writing may, in fact, get you published (though not likely- letâ€™s be honest) but just having the desire to be published canâ€™t turn you into a writer- only writing can do that.
Whether youâ€™re a novelist, essayist, or just a lowly blogger like me, get a copy of this book. In fact get two copies so you can give one to a friend- itâ€™s that good. Youâ€™ll turn the last page and feel inspired to finish that piece youâ€™ve been working on. Youâ€™re not crazy, youâ€™re not alone, and that should provide great encouragement to do the work of an author.
Jared Hollier is the husband of Liz and father of two-year-old Sam and his new baby brother, due in August. Jared pastors a small church in east Texas. He also writes, draws, and tries to make the world a happier place at Badly Drawn Bible.