Through humour, personal anecdotes and down to earth, honest experiences, Anne Lamott presents a creative writing class that addresses the realistic problems a writer faces: writer’s block, finding inspiration, the nightmare of publishing and the horrors of criticism- both positive and negative. To be honest it has been the first book I’ve read front to back in one sitting in a long while having found my mind flitting from writer to writer and book to book like some ADHD hummingbird. I’ve felt swamped in the amount of books I should be reading and by the many stories I’ve started yet are still begging for conclusions that I’ve had no idea where to start.

I’ve been in a kind of limbo, a roo caught in high beams and frozen stiff. Lamott’s book released me from my self-inposed stupor to take baby steps, bird by bird, and already I’ve filled up pages and pages of potential for short stories and novels alike. What’s important though is I’m writing again!

Lamott encourages that to be a writer, one most write. It’s as basic as that. That “short assignments” like anything in life, from building a house to raising a child, needs to be broken down into bite sized pieces. She uses self depreceating humour to become a partner in crime. A real person just like ourselves with fears and doubts and jealousies just like the next person. It’s almost a relief to know that the response, “I hate you and never want to speak to you again” to a writer friend’s success is normal or even to be expected. This is the same for those critics, friends or otherwise, who’d dare reject our creations and Lamott offers a somewhat healthy way to deal with these situations.

I would be interested to learn what her thoughts are on the ever changing publishing world where everyone, even pets and inanimate objects, can be published on the internet with a few strokes on a keyboard. With the publishing industry changing what it means to be a writer, it has yet to be decided whether this is for the best or not. Rather than critical reviews, we will have direct comments from readers and page clicks that we can monitor. E-books will replace crisp white pages of books. Will my children savour the smell of an unread book like I do now?

Bird by Bird was a fantastic read and one that I will refer back to often. It is funny, insightful, and scarily accurate in portraying my own thoughts and feelings about writing and its processes- yes I’m a jealous, self doubting human being but then I think everyone can say the same. I’ve been encouraged to shine a light on my own inner monsters and write the best I can for myself and myself first. Everyone else can go jump!