Bird by Bird
By Anne Lamott
Who is Anne Lamott? What is her story?
From the introduction we learn that Lamott is teacher who teaches people who want to improve on their writing skills. We also learn that in her childhood she was exposed to many books because her dad was a writer. She had a different dad than everyone else. Instead of having the usual dad who is a lawyer or police officer, she had a dad who wrote books. She often wished she had a normal dad, but when she invited a friend over, her friend thought her dad's job was really cool. Her and her family usually spends that evening reading books, and on every Thursday they would visit the library. She was bullied when she was growing up. She was picked on and teased by her peers, but later on kids would invite her to parties because they thought she was funny. In high school, she wrote journals, impassioned antiwar pieces, and parodies. She also loved telling stories. As she grew up, she realized that writing can bring you loneliness. For example, when her dad wrote an article about the men in the community, their values, and materialistic frenzy, and their wives, some people were furious about the article and some were happy. I think that when you’re a writer there will always be people that will criticize or not agree with your work, so I think that is why Anne Lamott feels this way. Moving on, when she went to college her philosophy class and her English class gave her a place in the community. After college she moved to Bolinas where she cleaned houses and taught tennis for a living, and she often worked on a short story called “Arnold". She really wanted the book to be published, but it didn’t. Later on she finds out that her dad is diagnose with brain cancer, and she beings writing about what her dad is going through. Anne Lamott sent this to Elizabeth, her dad's agent, and Elizabeth published the book. Anne Lamott thought this book would bring her fame and fortune but it didn't. She got some good reviews and some really bad one. This is why she tells her student that they shouldn't be too excited or get their hopes up when they send their stuff to an agent. It's something that the students don’t want to hear, but it's the truth. I see where she is going with this because if you get your hopes to high and it doesn’t work out then you will be crushed. Also, you shouldn’t do something for fame or for money; instead you should do it because you love it. Anne Lamott really wants to help students who like to write for fun, but it seems that everyone just wants to become rich and famous.
Part One: Writing
Lamott tells her students that the only way to be successful in writing is to tell the truth. She tells her students to start taking notes down. Also, she tells her students to start with a broad idea and then add detail to make it more specific. For example, she tells the audience that she was a food reviewer and that she has reviewed more than hundreds of restaurant. If you walked to her and ask for a recommendation than she could give you a bunch of choices, but if you told her that you like Indian, she could narrow it down. I get this concept because this how I process things. If you told me you needed a pencil I can give you any pencil, but if you gave me details that it was yellow and mechanical, I can give you the correct pencil. She tells her student to start writing about their childhood. She tells them to write both the good and the bad. If they can't think of anything, then she told them to write about a holiday. She talks about how you can find good pieces in bad writing as long as you develop your stories with good twist and turns. She spends time talking about putting ideas down, but her students just end up asking how they can find an agent. She tells them that writing is not all about getting publishes, but they don't listen. Next, she talks about short assignments. She sits down and she notices a one-inch picture frame, which reminds her of the short assignment. She says “it reminds me that all i have to do is write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame". She gives examples like writing one paragraph that sets the story of your hometown. From this you can write about the main characters, or when you first walk out onto the front door. With each detail a writer puts, the picture gets bigger. This is true when you write an essay because with each detail you put it, you're essay becomes bigger and longer and the audience can visualize it. Then she talks about first drafts and how it is a pain to rewrite them, but it helps you become better. Next, she talks about perfectionism and how it will ruin your life. She says if you striver for perfectionism you won’t get far with writing. You need to learn to get over it. This is true because nothing is ever perfect. If you try to make everything perfect than you will forget what is important. Moving on, she uses a Polaroid as a metaphor. She says “Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop". In a picture you can have a desk, a fruit, and many other things. They make the whole picture. In writing you can talk about a dog but then the dog can have a super hero owner who lives in a tree and next to a guy who goes fishing at night. These ideas will make your writing better and not dull. Then we can get to the character. She tells the audience that they can either hate their character or love them. She tells us that we will make our characters out of experience or from our subconscious, but either way we need to tell the extract truth about them. Then she tells us that we need to understand our plot because it is the main story. She says that you find the plot by finding out what each character cares most about in the world and then your plot will fall in place. Then we move on to the dialogue. Each character should sound like them and not you. Next, we have set design. She said to use the thing that surrounds you to use as inspiration. In my room, I have a clock, makeup, clothes, and a violin and so I can set the stage by describing the items in my room and how they got there. The last thing in part one that she mentions is the question “how do you know when you’re done?". She tells the students that they will just know when they are done, There is no real answer.
Part Two: The writing Frame of Mind
She tells us the most important thing about writing is learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on. She tells the audience that we should see the people of who they really are, and that we should not get distracted from it. She says “I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent." I think this is true because you have to be open to the world. Next, she talks about the moral point of view. She says that you have to put yourself in the center, and that you have to know what is true. You also have to be passionate about your writing. She says that the writing must tell their audience about our society. She says that if your writing does have this then it would be difficult to write about because you have nothing to convince your audience. Next, she talks about broccoli. She is making a reference to something called an old Mel Brooks routine. These routine talks about how the psychiatrist tells his patients to listen to your broccoli because the broccoli will tell you when you’re hungry and when you eat. Anne Lamott is trying to tell us that we should listen to our intuition. She says that our intuition will guide us to making correct choices and help search for the truth in our story. I think this is true because when I listen to my intuition when I’m taking my test I usually get the answer right. We usually dismiss our intuition because we being to over think and I do that a lot. Next, she talks about Radio station KFKD. She tells us that if we are not careful then KFKD could play in our heads for 24 hours. She is trying to tell us that there are always distractions. There is always a voice in our heads that tells us that we are wrong. This has happen to me all the time. When I write something, I always think to myself that oh I could have written about another topic that was more interesting or that I should have changed this sentence into something better. Her advice is to try making yourself be aware of the noises. Lastly, she talks about jealously. In this chapter, she talks about how she has a friend that has published books and has made a lot of money and know is well known. Her friend brags about it and tells Anne that she is sick of it. Anne being a good friend listens to her, but Anne doesn’t want to. Anne uses all this jealously to write a story, but in a humorous way. She says that the jealously will fade away. I think this is true because everyone gets jealous of something. I get jealous of people who score 2400 on their SAT without studying. The key point is to let that jealously go because if you keep it then you will hate everything ,and you can’t focus because you’re trying to beat them.
Part Three: Help along the way
One of the tips that she gives her audience is that you should carry an index card. She says that she can't live without her note cards because she writes down words about the event that happening to her. She says that if she gets stuck on an idea she can take out her note card and reread what she wrote the other day. She gives an example of when her friend, Pam said something about Demi Moore and naked pregnant pictures, so Anne decided to write those words in her note cards to use for later. The next thing she talks about is that you have to call around to find out the facts about things that your writing about. This will give you more details and correct details to your story. For example she wrote a story on a man opening a bottle. She didn't know what the wire thing around the bottleneck was called, so she called someone and they told her what it's called. This saved her from calling it that wire thingy. This would make your writing sound less sophisticated if you called it that thingy. This is useful information because when I don't know the names of thing I just say thingy and my paper ends up sounding stupid because I keep using the word thingy. Next, she talks about writing groups and having other people take a look of your writing. She tells us that we should join a writing group in order to listen to other people give us suggestion about what we should fix, and so that we can share our stories. She says that most of her students hope that she would fall in love with their writing the first time but she doesn’t. She pulls them aside and gives them support and advice instead. She also tells the audience that you don’t have to attack people. She said that she has this one student who wrote a weak piece of writing and everyone was trying to help that person, but there was one girl who told that person that he wouldn’t get anywhere. She says it's good to give criticism because it can help improve someone’s writing but it can also hurt someone. She encourages the audience and her students to join a writing group to get feedback and support one another. I think having a writing group can help someone become better at writing because other people are giving you advice to make your piece of writing much better. They are telling you many different ways to say I love eating sandwiches. Lastly, she talks about writer's block. She says that there will be days where you will be staring at the wall. Her solution is to not think about it, and go for a walk to clear your mind. She said that she spent time outdoors while she waited for her unconscious to open. I can relate to this because when I do write something I usually get stuck because i ran out of ideas in my head so I listen to music until I can write again.
Part Four: Publication and other reasons to write/ Part five: the last class
The 3 parts above are the main parts of the book. Part 4 and Part 5 is like the sprinkles. In part 4 this talks about how publications well not change your life or solve your problems. She says that is will not make you more confident or more beautiful. She says that you should write because you like writing. In this she talks about how her friend Pam died and how her son wrote her a letter. She said that she writes to those the people who she cared and respected. She wrote a story about her dad, Pam and son whose name is Sam. Then she talks about finding your voice. She says that the story has to come from your voice because if it came from another voice then the audience would become suspicious. I think when you’re writing from someone's voice then you’re not original. Next, she talks about giving she tells us that we have to give. she says" you have to give form the deepest part of yourself and the giving is going to have to be its own reward". She says you have to give it all to your characters and your readers. Then she goes over publications and the myths of it. She says that if you are going to have to deal with rejection and moving on. For her she said that it was like the last few weeks for pregnancy. She always felt anxious and when it was publish she felt that she accomplished something. The last thing she said was that when her book came out she did pretty well and that she got a lot of attention, but don't get too excited because it doesn’t last. In part five she talks about how she wants to tell her students everything about writing. She pretty much says that you should only write if you love it, and that she should be devoted to it and that yes you will have to go through obstacles but it is all worth it when you have a good piece of writing in the end. She also says that writing will make you think more deep and eventually you have tons of good stories to tell people and your voiced would be heard.
How did the book gets its name?
Lamott's brother was stuck on writing a paper for school, so her dad told him to take it bird by bird. This meant taking it by little or taking it in steps. Lamott uses this phrase to teach her students about writing. She suggested that students should take little steps rather than trying to write the whole essay in one try. I agree with this method because when you do things in steps you can catch your mistakes and have a clearer thought. If you do it all it at once you will have a load of jumble ideas and you can mess up.
Key points to take away from these paragraphs
- Write as if you are were to die the next day
- Your memory will help your writing
- Publishing shouldn’t be a big deal
- have faith
-connect with your community
- express both views. Don't just express one side
- focus on small things than to big
Sam is her four year old son and in the book she says that she writes so that she can leave him an inheritance of memories and experiences. Her son is very outgoing and curious about the world. She loves her son, and she wants him to accept illness and death because it is the necessities of life.