Every writer is unique, but no one is as unique as Anne Lamott. All craft books on writing are not unique, often but pale copies of pale copies, but Bird By Bird is absolutely unique. I could make my argument simply by listing some quotes I highlighted as I read:
If your narrator is [fascinating], it doesn’t matter if nothing happens for a long time. I could watch John Cleese or Anthony Hopkins do dishes for abut an hour without needing much else to happen.
You have to remind yourself that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.
Getting all of one’s addictions under control is a little like putting an octopus to bed.
The rational mind … so frequently has its head up its own ass–seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a cool-rectal theology, offering hope to no one.
Being a writer guarantees that you will spend too much time alone … You may begin showing signs of schizophrenia–like you’ll stare at the word schizophrenia so long it will start to look wrong and you won’t be able to find it in the dictionary and you’ll start to think you made it up …
But the essence of Lamott is not just that she’s funny and insightful and full of sound bytes. It’s not that, like most craft books Bird By Bird is full of practical tips (the title comes from some advice her father gave her younger brother when he was overwhelmed about a school report on avian life–Just take it bird by bird by bird.) for tale-tellers. It’s not even that she finds ways to relating her own experiences as an author to her fledgling students (Publication will not change you, but writing will.) What makes Anne work is that know how to immerse us in the protoplasm of the creative process. Without that, nothing else counts for much, and if anyone can show you how to get there, Anne can. Even if you can’t get there, however. You can be sure that Anne will still care. Still love you. Still make you laugh. All of which counts for a lot.