Writers love the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Every few months a writer I know will mention THE BOOK only to have other people pile on about how inspiring it is. I read it. I didn’t find it inspiring. I found it choked with metaphor and platitudes. I didn’t hate it, but it certainly didn’t change my life.
I first heard about Bird by Bird on a bus full of playwrights during the Great Plains Theatre Conference. The book had been out for ten years at that time, so I’m not sure how I managed to avoid it. Seemingly everyone else was talking about how much it inspired them as writers. I knew I had better read it. I needed to know what the fuss was about.
I was in the process of moving. The moving truck came the day before I left for the conference where one of my plays was being read. I returned to a largely empty apartment and slept on the floor for a few days while I finished up work before moving to Chicago. Once I arrived in my new home I was busy unpacking, adjusting to a new job, and planning a wedding. About six months later I finally took the time to read Bird by Bird.
That was years ago. I don’t remember specifics, but I do remember it not living up to hype for me.
Whenever people start gushing about Bird by Bird I think of Val’s monologue in A Chorus Line when she talks about the movie The Red Shoes. A bunch of the auditioning dancers before her talk about how they were inspired by The Red Shoes, but Val says:
Let’s get one thing straight. See, I never heard about The Red Shoes, I never saw The Red Shoes, I didn’t give a fuck about The Red Shoes.
That’s how I feel about Bird by Bird.
I think it’s great that the book Bird by Bird inspires a lot of writers. Good for them. It just didn’t do much for me.
Here are a few books that do inspire me as a writer:
- On Writing by Stephen King,
- 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl, and
- Women Pulitzer Playwrights.
Actually, the books that inspire my writing the most are just really good books. They don’t have to be about writing. Typically it is better if they aren’t. I’m also inspired by watching good plays.
What inspires you? (It’s Bird by Bird, isn’t it?)
- Sarah Ruhl on life intruding on writing
- Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story
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