Being a writer is a lonely business and at times it’s downright difficult to keep going. A well-written text book can not only give you much needed support and encouragement, it can also offer excellent advice on honing your writing skills. I have many creative writing texts books on my shelves and while I don’t refer to them as often as I used to when I was a beginner writer, I still use some, including Anne Lamott’s excellent Bird By Bird.
In the introduction to Bird by Bird Anne says,
“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”
Anne describes the agony and pleasure of being a writer-cum-explorer and all that she has learned along the way:
“Bird by Bird is every single thing I know about writing”.
Though first written in 1994 it is still fresh and relevant today and full of downright useful advice for the beginner, emerging and experienced writer. There are chapters on Getting Started, Short Assignments, Character, Dialogue, False Starts, Plot Treatments, Point of View, Jealousy (yes, Jealousy!), and much more. It is a well written and inspiring book. But it is also a memoir. And this works for me. As you read Bird by Bird you feel you are really getting to know Anne, her family and friends. She is an extremely honest and witty writer, who once had a drink problem and now has God. But you do not have to be an alcoholic (recovering or otherwise) or religious in any way shape or form to enjoy this book – neither are forced into the reader’s face.
If you feel compelled to write, Bird by Bird is for you.
“Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. The thing you forced yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”
One small add on: the chapter on Publication doesn’t mention many of the recent changes in the publishing world due to developments in digital technology, but you can find plenty information online about what’s happening. When it comes to approaching publishers and agents, her advice still stands (for now!).
Do you have a favourite creative writing text book? Post a comment here and tell me why you like it so much!
BTW: Who is Anne Lamott? She is an accomplished novelist of seven books, and six non-fiction books, the most recent of which is Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My first Son’s First Son (due out on March 20, 2012).
And here’s the lady herself on YouTube!