Progressive Book Club – Bird by Bird Top 10 List

Level Up! Blogfest post is below.


Welcome to the first discussion post of the Progressive Book Club, hosted by M.L. Swift.  This month’s selection, Bird by Bird written by Anne Lamott.I really enjoyed the book. It was funny and entertaining. I forgot it was supposed to be educational.

 What I took away from this book was a deeper understanding of why I love to write.  It reminded me, although being a writer can be frustrating and isolating and at times boring, there is nothing like the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual feeling  you get from writing.

Here are the top 10 lessons I learned from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:

  1. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation.  They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life. – It gave me a life.
  2. Do it every day for a while. – I struggle with this the most.
  3. The actual act of writing turns out to be the best part. – If I could remember how it feels all the time, I would no longer have a problem with #2.
  4. When my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. – Again, that physical, emotional, mental & spiritual things I talked about before. 
  5. You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. – Writing taught me who I am and who I am, is ok. 
  6. Write an incredibly shitty, self-indulgent, whinny, mewling first draft.  Then take out as many of the excesses as you can. – Turning off and the edit button is hard and even harder to turn it back on. 
  7. Characters: it takes time for you to know them, you need to find out as much as possible about the interior life of the people you are working with, you are going to hate some of your characters, you are probably going to have to let bad things happen to some of the characters you love, plot grows out of character, the better you know them the more you’ll see things from their point of view, you have to get things quiet in your head so you can hear them and let them guide your story. – My favorite section of the book. I love the purposeful task of creating a good character. 
  8. The development of relationships creates plot. – You create some much for the reader if you focus on the relationships in your WIP. 
  9. Dialogue: listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off, each one must sound different, gives us the sense that we are eavesdropping, is the way to nail character. – Eavesdropping is the key.
  10. Jealousy is the business of comparing my insides to other people’s outsides. – I put this one on my inspiration board. It is so true.  Not a fair comparison, so stop doing it. 

Which piece of advice do you identify with most?  

19 thoughts on “Progressive Book Club – Bird by Bird Top 10 List

  1. Well done! I’m shooting to be the last one to post (it’s not even Wednesday yet here). Then I can either steal all the good ideas or lament that the good approaches have all been taken.

  2. GREAT post, Sydney! Absolutely wonderful. I took away much of the same.

    It’s funny…I did a thoroughly close reading of the book a month ago…highlighting, taking notes…and then when I put together my post, going through the yellow-marked lines of lusciousness to pick out a few (50), I practically read it again! Yes, it was that good and that engrossing—even a second time. I’m sure I’ll read it a third and a fourth, too.

    Wonderful kick-off to the PBC. Thanks for a great wrap-up.

  3. Great take-aways. I think what I really like about the book is that each time I read it (and it’s been 3-4 times over the last five or six years) I pull something different from it, depending on where I’m at in my personal writing journey. It’s wonderful to have a book on the shelf that motivates us to keep writing and reminds us why we do.

  4. Loved your list- great things to think about and add to the writing mentality. I think I most identify with your comments on #2 and 3- it’s a struggle! #10 needs to go on my inspiration board (need to get one of those…) or my mirror or my forhead. So true.

    Beautiful post! 🙂

    1. Thanks Lexie. I really enjoyed the book. Nice to know there are published accomplished writers who still have insecurities and frustrations about this process. But, we have to do it, right.

  5. I got quite a bit out of the character-building discussions, also, as in, ‘Leave them alone, you’re not their mother.’ (Not verbatim, I know, but the sentiment’s there.) I love your take on #5. With all the societal pressures nowadays, it’s an effort sometimes to convince ourselves that, hey, it’s okay to be yourself. Nice work. (My first visit here: Is that the Sydney Opera House at the top?)

    1. Hi Erica, thanks for your comments. Happy you came by for a visit. Not the Sydney Opera House, but I have been there. It’s beautiful place. It kind of my theme for the new year to be more ok with who I am.

  6. Sydney,
    Very thorough examination and review. I connected with “The actual act of writing turns out to be the best part. – If I could remember how it feels all the time, I would no longer have a problem with #2.”
    As well as…”you have to get things quiet in your head so you can hear them and let them guide your story. – My favorite section of the book.”

    Reading your post is like reading my own respone. i wonder if anyone else had the same reaction.

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