Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing…
Until I signed up to take part in the PBC I had never heard of this book or author. I ordered my copy from the library and waited for the email telling me it had arrived.

Then on 22nd January I received an email from Delancey Place. I had previously subscribed and each day an email plops into my inbox with details from books etc. As soon as I read the email of 22nd Jan I knew that I would enjoy Bird by Bird. I can not give a link to the article, but head over to the site and search for Bird by Bird and you should find the article.

The email from the library eventually arrived, and I set about reading the book.

The task set by the Progressive Book Club is to read the set book, in this case, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and then review sharing what each reader will take away from the book.

The following is the passage that was shared in the email on 22nd Jan. I then read the same passage, obviously, in the book.

From page 19

“‎30 years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird”

On page 59

“You need to keep moving your characters forward, even if they only go slowly”

The Chapter on Index cards I found particularly useful and interesting. Back to my study days at school and the college and university I was a fan of index cards. I recall carrying around chunks of them and reading them continuously, almost up to the point of sitting the final exam. In my early days of genealogy I used index cards to record what details I knew about specific ancestors.

Anne talks about always carrying a card or paper or a notebook with her to record any thoughts or ideal writing material.  By coincidence, I explored a similiar idea in a column that I write regularly at the In-Depth Genealogist.  In that article, which you can read by HERE and scrolling through until you reach Across the Pond. I explore not only recording points to jar your memory, but writing the story behind it. Even Anne mentions that sometimes she doesn’t recall the story behind all her references on the index cards.

I really enjoyed this book and have ordered my own copy from Amazon. Apart from the content, I enjoyed the writing style, it felt as though Anne Lamott was sitting in my sitting room.

A great first choice to kick off the Progressive Book Club

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
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12 Responses to Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

  1. Joseph says:

    Index cards…hmmm…I wish I would have thought of that before I used sharpies to make notes on my hand, my arms, my chest, my bum.

    Of course, I wish I would have thought of sharpies before I used tattoos…

    Julie, your site is warm and friendly.


  2. Thanks for stopping by Tara. I have one notebook and use that for everything, although I have gone back to a filofax I am having second thoughts on that.


  3. I will look out her other books. This is certainly one writer I would love to hear talk.


  4. Look forward to reading about your use of the index cards and your review of the book.


  5. M.L. Swift says:

    Once again, Julie…great job. And thank you so much for participating!


  6. Erica says:

    If I had a sitting room, I would be thrilled to have Anne Lamott sitting in it. I agree, her warm style makes for easy reading. Index cards are something I haven't tried, but many writers swear by them. You've got me thinking I might give them a go.


  7. It was a great book. Very insightful about the process of writing.


  8. Lexie C. says:

    I used to carry around a notebook for notes, thoughts, songs- anything that I wanted to remember but I kept leaving it places and I was paranoid that someone would read my writing, so I stopped. When she mentioned index cards in the book, though obvious and a common habit of writers, it was like someone turned on the light for me! I now have index cards in my backpack and just need to remember to use them!

    Great post! 🙂


  9. Melissa says:

    Enjoyed reading your review.

    I use colored card stock for my plot cards – pink for my heroine's POV and blue for the hero's. I'll be posting a picture of them next month when we review Save The Cat. 🙂


  10. Tara Tyler says:

    i love jotting notes too, but i have a little notebook in every location. i need more room than an index card (and i tend to lose things…)

    it was a great & helpful read!


  11. Julie Luek says:

    I think you hit it on the head for me. I most love, admire and aspire to her writing style. It's what's lead me to read 3-4 of her other nonfiction books and at least 2 of her fiction. I much, much prefer her nonfiction for precisely the reason you mention: her style. She has a wonderful way of creating a cozy chat within great writing.


  12. M.L. Swift says:

    Great article, Julie. I didn't see it when I came over earlier…thought maybe you forgot little ol' us.

    The index cards, the one-inch frame, the importance of finding your voice…the shitty first drafts. All have become staples in the writer's toolbox.

    Thanks for participating!


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