Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

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my notes

I really think that you should read this book at a particular time in you life. The story navigates through personal stories and nostalgic episodes of life itself. Anyway, the good shit sticks.
You can get the golden nuggets below. 

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something - anything - down on paper.

So started taking notes on people around me, in my town, in my family, in my memory. I took notes on my own state of mind, my grandiosity, the low self-esteem. I wrote down the funny stuff I overheard. I learned to be like a ship's rat, veined ears trembling, and I learned to scribble it all down.

You always want to look at people and ask yourself how they stand, what they carry in their pockets or purses, what happens in their faces and to their posture when they are thinking, or bored, or afraid. Whom would they have voted for last time? Why should we care about them anyway? What would be the first thing they stopped doing if they found out they had six months to live? Would they start smoking again? Would they keep flossing?

Nothing is as important as a likable narrator. Nothing holds the story together better.

You might also consider trying to breathe. Because if you try to follow your breath for a while, it will ground you in relative silence.

I used to think that paired opposites were a given, that love was the opposite of hate, right the opposite of wrong. But now I think that sometimes we buy into these concepts because it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality.

Money won't guarantee you much of anything, except that you will only have a much more expensive set of problems.

My deepest belief is that to live as if we're dying can set us free. Dying people teach you to pay attention and to forgive and not to sweat the small things.

The way I dance is by writing. So I wrote about trying to pay attention to the world, about taking things less seriously, moving more slowly, stepping outside more often. I needed a sabbatical from our friendship.

Carry a notebook with you everywhere you go. Note-taking by hand is a very powerful tool.

A critic is someone who comes onto the battlefield after the battle is over and shoots the wounded.

What you think is the truth is just your opinion.

The best possible thing is to shoot high and make mistakes so that when you are old, or dying, you are not going to say: "God! I am so glad I took so few risks! I am so glad I kept shooting so low!"

You don't always have to chop with the sword of truth, you can point with it too!

Short assignments, I whispered. Shitty first drafts. She mewled.

Then I go telling people to consider finding someone who would not mind reading their drafts and marking them up with useful suggestions.

You do not want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can't fill up when you're holding your breath. And writing is about filling up.

Okay, hmm, let's see. Dying tomorrow. What should I do today?

Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe.

What you have to offer is your own sensibility and your own sense of humor.

If you give freely, there will always be more.

I think I've told my students every single thing I know about writing. Short assignments, shitty first drafts, one-inch picture frames, Polaroids, messes, mistakes, partners. But a lot of these people came to my class with the best ten pages they've ever written, hoping to get published, and now they wonder if this was just a pipe dream. I don't think so.

In this dark and wounded society, writing can give you the pleasures of the woodpecker, of hollowing out a whole in a tree where you can build your nest and say, ''This is my niche, this is where I live now, this is where I belong.''
And the niche is small and dark, but at least you will finally know what you are doing.

Robert Dumitriu