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  • Writer's pictureMark J. Keenan

bird by bird

At 11:40 PM on New Years Eve, I was reading. My wife was next to me on the couch catching Pokemon, my 19 year old son was having a snooze and my 14 year old boy was making an Indiana Jones costume. A Robbie Williams concert was on the TV. It wasn't much of a party scene but it was a great way to end the year. We had enjoyed a wonderful day strolling the markets and walking in the forest, capping it off with a great pub meal. We all went outside at midnight to watch the fireworks, including the sleepy one, and welcomed in the new year.

I wanted to finish the book for two reasons. Firstly, I had set a goal for 2016 of reading a book a fortnight. I hadn't achieved that goal but finishing this would make it 20. And 20 sounded so much closer to 26, than 19 to me. Secondly, it's a great book.

The book, 'bird by bird' written by Anne Lamott, is essential reading if you are a writer. At least that's how I now feel. In it, Anne captures the essence of what it is to be a writer, and indeed a human. The ups and downs of life, the blank pages that you face every day, the self-doubt and criticism, the awkward questions from people you meet, the wondrous feeling when it all comes together. She manages to distill it all, including a few choice words here and there with great humour and sensitivity.

This is not a book about showing and not telling, about ditching adverbs, or how to construct the perfect sentence (whatever that is). No, it's a book getting started and keeping on going. It's about shitty first drafts, looking through the one inch picture frame to find the scene, about how to be an observer. And it's about broccoli, which is what Anne has called her writing intuition. She explains, with great feeling, how to make writing mean something to you, how to turn your words into gifts for others, how to make it matter.

If you write, or you want to, I suggest getting hold of a copy of this book because it's an absolute gem.


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