English: Unidentified bird

English: Unidentified bird (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bird by Bird.

I rarely read books about the craft of writing.

The topic just sounds boring.

Shouldn’t you just write and write and write and let people tell you what they like and don’t like and that’s the only way you can get good at it?

While Anne Lamott, author of “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” agrees that the best way to learn how to write is to write, she doesn’t just glibly leave it at that.

In fact, glib is not in her nature.

Craft is in her nature. She’s the kind of writer who brings you along like a twig on a creek, lazily flowing downstream, bringing you the insights of an accomplished author who lets you sit at her feet.

Then, without any warning, she drops a pebble in the water that makes ripples so beautiful you don’t know how the world survived before those words were written.

Why Should Boomers Read About Writing?

If you or someone you know is thinking about writing your memoirs for your grandchildren, this is the book you should start with.

You may not be like Lamott’s college writing class students, hoping to get published, imagining yourself the next J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame.

But, like any other writer, you may have doubts about whether anyone cares about what you write.

You may get discouraged that it is taking longer than you think it should.

You may be trying to decide if you should include that story about Uncle Jake.

You may be having trouble stringing together all your stories, which seem like individual raindrops when you write them, without benefit of falling together in a summer storm that waters the garden.

Lamott helps you get past the mental barriers that have been keeping you from writing your stories.

Who Are You Writing For?

Lamott tells us about the two books she wrote as gifts. One was for her best friend, who was dying of breast cancer.

But before that, she wrote an autobiographical novel for her father, a writer himself.

He was dying of brain cancer. It was her first novel, Hard Laughter, a story about crazy families, their laughter and discoveries.

It was a love letter to her father.

She was 26.

Though it wasn’t published until after he died, it was finished and he had a chance to read it.

Can You Really Write a Memoir That Is Fiction?

Lamott’s first novel was thinly disguised autobiography. Its main character was a man dying of brain cancer.

Her non-fiction book about writing, Bird by Bird, speaks from the perspective of a writer developing character and plot, preparing to write fiction.

But, in every suggestion about how to do this, she describes observing real people being themselves.

So, though a memoir could be a novel, as her Hard Laughter was, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, the emphasis is the same – authenticity.

“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your readers.”

And, that’s what you want to do for your grandchildren, “Throw the lights on.”

You want them to pick up where you left off.

Why should they have to relearn the lessons you’ve already learned?

If you tell them what life has taught you, they can learn new lessons to pass on to their grandchildren.

Click below to hear an interview I conducted with Nancy Kyme, Author of another novel/memoir, Memory Lake, and the influence Bird by Bird had on her as a writer.

Click here for a 2010 interview with Lamott about using fiction to tell the truth.

Click here to order Bird by Bird and read how one writer has learned to teach us her life lessons.

Have you ever been inspired by a writer to write your own stories?

Do you think your life stories would be better told in fiction or non-fiction?

Is there ever a time when you tell your grandchildren stories about your childhood?

To you and capturing life’s memories for your grandchildren.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers

Click here to order this blog on your Kindle.



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