Latish Sehgal's Blog

Book Notes: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Read On: Aug 2016
Reading Time: 5 hours
Rating: 8/10


Think you’ve got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn’t afraid to help you let it out. She’ll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be seduced by Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.


  • Good writing is all about telling the truth in an interesting way.
  • Try to sit down to write at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively.
  • It is fantasy to think that successful writers do not have bored, defeated hours, these hours of deep insecurity when one feels as small and jumpy as a water bug. They do. But they also often feel a great sense of amazement that they get to write, and they know that this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
  • All good writers write shitty first drafts. That is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.
  • Perfectionism is the main obstacle between you and the shitty first draft.
  • Good formula for short story- ABDCE
    • Action: Compelling enough to draw us in, make us want to know more.
    • Background: Let us see and know who these people are, how they’ve come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story
    • Development -Develop these people, so that we learn what they care about most.
    • Climax: Move story till you come to climax, often when things are different for the main characters in some big way.
    • Ending -Where people are now, what they are left with.
  • Good dialogue is more like a movie than real life, since it should be more dramatic. You should be able to identify each character by what he or she says. Each one must sound different from the others. Dialogue is the way to nail character, so you have to work on getting the voice right.


Every once in a while, I try to read a book on writing better. I don’t intend to publish a fiction book, but it would be nice to make my blog posts more interesting. This book is full of great anecdotes (thus making it harder to quantify notes), and the authors journey actually seemed very similar to that of a programmer, so I could relate to those bits. This was definitely the most entertaining book on writing that I have ever read.

P.S I have moved all my Book Notes to Read My Book Notes.