Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: Book Summary

Here’s my book summary of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In it, you’ll find high-level ideas, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

Bird By Bird Summary

You have to write to grow and become a better writer. That’s the surest, and basically only, way. And by writing, you can actually begin to understand what you’re writing about.

If you want to help yourself write more consistently, sit down at the same time each day and push out whatever writing you can. Terrible first drafts are ok, since no one is going to see it but you.

Then rewrite that writing to the best of your ability and have trusted friends look at it.

People recognize fake writing and it’s not interesting. So don’t be shy, put real emotion in your writing. They want to hear your unique story. Tell them about your relationship with your parents, current struggles or glamorous victories, and what you remember when you were 14 years old, for example.

You have to find your true voice to get the most out of your writing. And you can’t discover it when you’re afraid of who is looking over your shoulders, like your parents.

There’s a difference between writer’s block and not being filled up with anything to write. When you’re spiritually or emotionally unfilled, get away from writing to fill back up. Spend time doing what you love to fill back up and then you’ll be ready to write.

Use nature and the people around you to build your book. If you hear something in conversation that you could use, make a note of it. If you see something in public, you can use it.

Your point of view on life is what you can offer us, so offer it.

You’re going to eventually die. So there’s no sense in wasting life sitting on the sidelines because you’re imperfect. It’s far better to accept your imperfections and enjoy life.

Write because you enjoy it. Write because you have a voice in this life. Write because it brings you to life. Write to break free.

Mini Summary

Put real emotion, vulnerability, and truth into all of your writing. The cost is worth it. People will always resonate with real writing.

Take your writing word by word, sentence by sentence… in Lamott’s words, “bird by bird.” Great things can develop after you start small. And don’t be picky about first drafts, just let everything and anything that wants to come out of your fingers come out. Be picky when you go over your writing.

The joy of writing is more satisfying than the finished result.

Three Favorite Quotes

“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.”

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

“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 a shitty 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.”

Action Steps For You

Implement the habit of doing things little by little, or bird by bird.

For example, who cares if you don’t have a master plan of how you’re going to edit and publish your book when you don’t know the subject of your book. Focus on finding your book idea and cross those bridges when you get to them.

Accept that it’s perfectly fine you don’t know how you’re going to finish your blog post, just get started writing the introduction.

If you don’t know how to write the introduction, write the first words that come to mind and then build from there.

Relating this to a blog, choose a blog logo and move on.

Pick a website theme and start writing, you can always adjust the theme later.

Choose a picture of yourself for the About page and publish it.

Practice making decisions and running with them, especially when you can edit them later.

To be successful and happy, you have to make progress.

When you take small actions and get over trying to be perfect, you’ll become a better writer. You’ll enjoy the writing process more. And you’ll become more alive.

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Or check out other book recommendations to become more successful.

Brian Robben

Brian Robben is the founder of Take Your Success, a site dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs grow a profitable business and reach freedom. For in-depth training, visit: