Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bird by Bird, a Classic Writing Book that every Writer should Read

by Lynn H Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

Do you have a list of classics you’ve never read? You know, the ones you intended to read, but somehow they slipped through the literary cracks?

Now you’re all grown up and when people talk about these books you nod in agreement, because EVERYONE knows how awesome that book is.

But the truth is, YOU DON’T because you haven’t read it. And whenever anyone brings it up you remind yourself—again—that you’ve got to read that book just so you won’t feel like the only forty-year-old who hasn’t read To Kill A Mockingbird. (Hangs head in shame)

That’s how I’ve been feeling about Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

When I first started writing, I poured over “best books on writing” lists and Bird by Bird made so many appearances that it should have gone straight to the top of the pile. But for some reason my local library doesn’t carry it and then, well, I really don’t know what happened.

Bottom line, I hadn’t read it.

Until now.

As crazy as this may seem, I’m glad I waited.

The way she talks about jealousy, or the mood swings she experiences after sending off her manuscript, or the way she feels about people who leave a negative review of her books, or the way she talks to herself while she’s trying to draft a new story… If I’d read it a few years ago, I might have thought that she was being a bit over-the-top in some of her descriptions.

Instead, I found myself nodding in agreement, snorting with laughter, and frequently stunned that someone had so articulately and accurately defined my own bizarre and mercurial emotions about this beautiful and painful road I’m on.

While there is great writing advice in Bird by Bird, it’s more a book on how to survive being a writer than it is a book on how to write.

At this stage in the publication game, that’s exactly what I needed it to be.

What classic writing book have you discovered—or rediscovered? Share it in the comments section below.

And don't forget to join the conversation!

**Bird by Bird is sarcastic, irreverent, and sprinkled with the occasional expletive. If those things bother you, you should probably leave this one on the shelf. 

There are many classic #Writing books, @LynnHBlackburn shares one of her new favorites (Click to Tweet)

A classic #writing book every author should read - via @LynnHBlackburn on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Lynn Huggins Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after at


  1. I need to pull it out again. It's funny you mention what she says, because I tried to read it maybe 8 years ago, but I wasn't getting what I had been looking for. I didn't see the step-by-step advice I wanted. So I put it down. But from your description, I think it's time to read it. Thanks, Lynn!

    1. Ane - It is interesting how I view craft books differently than I did a few years ago. Not that I've arrived by any means, but my perspective is different now. I'm planning to re-read several books that I haven't picked up in a few years, just to see what new insights I can glean!

  2. I enjoyed Bird by Bird. You felt you were getting to talk to an accomplish writer about the mental part of writing. It's a book I'll need and want to read again.

  3. I've always loved to write, and last November I participated in National Novel Writing Month. (affectionately known as NaNoWriMo) The one book that was recommended by a fellow writer was "Bird by Bird". Somehow I stumbled upon "Stein on Writing" by Sol Stein. So I checked both out at my local library. Loved Lamott's whit in her book but the profanity turned me off, so I picked up "Stein on Writing". As an aspiring author I cannot image a more valuable book! SO PRACTICAL! And I love the fact that he gives so many examples of what he's trying to teach. I'll be ordering a copy I can keep and mark up ASAP!