“The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth” (p. 3)
The stories and principles of writing in the book come from Lamott's workshops and teaching experience of working with writers at various stages of development. Telling the truth, even in fiction, is what makes writing interesting to readers.
“All I know is that if I sit there long enough, something will happen” (p. 10).
The author speaks of the necessity to spend regular time sitting down to write and not to give up or expect something to come on the first go. She teaches faith in the writing process.
“Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force” (p. 28).
Lamott wants her students to be brave enough to try things and not worry about final results during the drafting process.
“All you can give us is what life is about from your point of view” (p. 55)
Writers cannot try to be what they are not. Their strength comes from the truth told from their particular vision that is unique.
“Good dialogue gives us the sense that we are eavesdropping” (p. 67).
Lamott shows that dialogue is one of the more important ways to reveal character; it should sound spontaneous.
“The villain has a heart, and the hero has great flaws” (p. 69).
The author tries to illustrate that in real life no one is all good or evil, and characters are more interesting if they are not drawn in black or white.
“Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems” (p. 185).
Lamott finds that beginning writers want to leap into print immediately, not understanding the long process of working and perfecting a piece. They think getting rich and famous is the goal, while the author believes that it is writing itself that changes a person's life. Publication is secondary.
“We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must” (p. 198).
Lamott encourages writers to write what they know, even if it may be unusual or something not usually looked at. We need to tell the truth about life as we know it, in our own voices.
“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious” (p. 225).
The writer has to be observant and go into the hidden places of his or her own life and to life in general to bring the experience to awareness and to an audience.
“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander” (p. 231).
A person is lucky to be a writer and whatever else may happen is gravy. One should not feel self-pity about whether anyone else appreciates the writing. Writing is its own reward.
Bird by Bird : Top Ten Quotes