Friday, October 29, 2010

Goodreads and Bird by Bird

You have to read a lot to write a lot.  All the agents say it; all the writers say it; all the writing teachers say it.  Stephen King says it in his On Writing.  English teachers say it--or should say it.  Reading a lot shows you what you do--and don't--want to write like.  It gives you ideas.  It starts the creative motor.  It gets you and keeps you in the mood.  It's all part of the creative flow.

With that in mind, I thought I would write an occasional post about what specific books have meant to me.  Click on the link coming soon to go to my Goodreads page.  You'll see my entire "shelf" of books that I've put on the site so far.  The real number of read books is easily 10 times what I've had time to put on the shelf so far, so don't think I've read just 100 or so books.  Ain't the case.  It's a cool site because it actually helps you organize the books you do have--especially if you're like me, with such a large library that you sometimes buy a book you already have because you 'd forgotten you already had it--and because it helps you realize how many books you have that you still haven't read--so you don't waste money or space buying even more books.  I'm guilty of all of these things.

For now, here's what I wrote about Annie Lamott's Bird by Bird: "Brilliant writer. Can't get enough of her, from her days at to anything recent. A must for anyone who even thinks about becoming a writer. I re-read it every now and then if I am stuck, or just for a kick in the butt."  That little blurb doesn't do the book, or her writing, justice.  If you want to spend some length of time reading beautiful writing on relationships, raising children, religion or politics, go to and read her stuff.  And if you're a writer, you absolutely must get a copy of Bird by Bird.  (SPOILER!  SPOILER!)  The title comes from a segment where the author, as a child, has to do a report on maybe 50 birds for a class, and there's only a day or two left before it's due.  She asks her father how she could possibly write the report about that many birds in such a short amount of time.  Where do you start?  How do you do it?  "Bird by bird," he tells her.  And he's right.  That's how novels and short stories are made, too.  One word at a time, baby.  Bird by bird. 

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