“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.”
“I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.”
“Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.”
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and your first draft.”
“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”
There are many more quotes I could have added, but these will do for now. If you can get the book then do it! It’s an enjoyable read. I hope to read more “advice on writing” sort of books. I also hope to actually do more writing.
Some of the tips Lamott gave in ‘Bird By Bird’ were new to me, others I knew before and have been putting into practise, while others I knew of and have been too scared to try. Hearing her thoughts on these, particularly, has encouraged and reassured me to keep going with my writing!