Bird by Bird Summary

One Paragraph Summary Anne Lamott gives you all the instructions you need to hone the craft of writing. With her approach to writing, you can find your inner voice and become the great writer you always wanted to be.

Bird by Bird Summary

Bird by Bird—Some Instructions on Writing and Life
A book by Anne Lamott

In Bird by Bird, you will learn everything you need to know to start your writing career. From practical tips, you can immediately apply to some more vague advice, like trusting your intuition and becoming aware of your feelings.

You will also learn how to find your inner voice, how to create the characters for any story you want to tell.

When writer's block strikes, you will also find a way to overcome it by applying more tips from Lamott.

  These are the things I learned by reading the Blinks to Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird:

  • Becoming a good writer means above all discipline to stick to your routine
  • Allow your creativity to flow
  • Good writing is finding the truth

This book summary is based on the Blinks I listened to while walking to work. I learn from Blinkist's content each and every day. So if you enjoy this summary, you will like their content even more.


Key Ideas

There are certain ingredients for good writing

There might not be a secret formula to become a great writer, but there is a specific approach to becoming a writer you can follow.

Becoming a good writer also means becoming an attentive observer.

Good writing always means finding the truth in the things you observe and then using those insights to tell a story.

You can find your writer's voice

All aspiring writers need to find their inner voice. The inner voice is how a writer develops her story and how she includes details, emotions, and feelings in her writing.

To find your inner voice as an author, you have to find your true feelings. Only then can you make the story your own by telling it with your authentic voice.

If something is holding back your writing, it might be because there are still some closed doors within you. Become aware of your true feelings to find what is holding back your words. Do you feel anger or grief?

All your feelings, both good and bad, are part of you. To find the voice, you need to accept yourself and allow yourself to have this spectrum of emotions and use them as a tool in your storytelling.

You need to win the belief of your readers

Becoming a great writer will not be easy. But if you want to become a writer, you can.

Just do not pay attention to whether you are a good writer, just write instead. Write about all that is important to you and hone your skills every day. If you persist and believe in your writing, you will improve your ability, day by day, step by step.

One day you will find yourself having a yearning for writing like Ronaldo yearns to play soccer. You will develop a love for the act of writing.

For your stories, you will have to look deeply into the banalities of life. And if you care about those banalities and write about them, you will develop a deep understanding of your world. From this, you will develop a belief in your position.

Having this position will win you the belief of your readers.

You need to establish a daily writing routine

Wouldn't it be great when your creative energies would kick in at the right time every day?

The good news is that you can create a setting to allow these creative energies to visit you. Maybe not every day, but more often than not.

First, you need to find a place where you can write. When you know where you will write, you need to find the perfect time slot in a day to hone your skill. Finding the right time requires some experimentation.

Make writing a daily habit. Go to the same place at roughly the same time every day and write.

The book Atomic Habits by James Clear will help you immensely establishing any habit.

Your commitment and discipline will open the doors for the creative energy to come to you.

A shitty first draft is an essential stage of the writing process

Nobody can write the perfect story in the first draft. The truth is that you need successive drafts to develop a good story.

The shitty first draft is crucial as it allows you to put all your unedited, uncensored creativity to paper. You should embrace the first draft as an essential step in writing. Embrace it.

Nobody will see your first draft. Therefore you are free to dump everything you like into it.

Every writer experiences writer's block

Every writer experiences writer's block from time to time. How you react to your missing creativity is critical.

The first step in overcoming writer's block is to acknowledge that you have it.

It is likewise important that you continue to stick to your writing routine and have the confidence that your creativity and inspiration will come back.

You also need to trust your intuition. Sometimes it is not the writer's block, which is making your story dull. It might just be a lousy story. Observe and respect your intuition. Sometimes it is best to let go and pursue another project.

Get feedback from the right people

Writing is a solitary endeavor. It is imperative to collect feedback from people who, too, live a writer's life.

But it is too easy to get into contact with people who cannot give you the feedback you need. Look for somebody who can provide you critical feedback but, at the same time, can be supportive.

Getting published is only the icing on the cake

Too many writers only write because they want to get published. But why? Publishing should be just a tool for you to gain more readers. The real value of writing lies in the perspective you gain on life itself.

If you are not a good writer before getting published, you won't be a good writer afterward. If you want to become a good writer, you should follow Anne Lamott's tips, but getting published will not do the trick.


First Insight: Becoming a good writer means above all discipline to stick to your routine

I don't think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good at it.―Anne Lamott

There might be some writers who never needed to learn the skill of writing. But if they exist, they are the exception. Most creative workers follow a strict routine and are very disciplined to hone their skills every day, without exception.

Second Insight: Allow your creativity to flow

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.―Anne Lamott

Allowing yourself to write a shitty first draft you let your creativity flow. If you stop writing because you go back to correct a mistake you made in the sentence before you are already hindering the flow.

Always remember that it is fine to bring anything to paper. Nobody will read your first draft, but you.

There is enough room to correct mistakes in a second and third draft.

Third Insight: Good writing is finding the truth

For a life oriented to leisure is, in the end, a life oriented to death – the greatest leisure of all.―Anne Lamott

Becoming a good writer means finding the truth. First, you need to find your truth. Then you need to find the truth of the people around you. Only then can you find the truth of your stories' characters.

Look deeply insight you. Inspect your mind, feelings, and emotions. What is the essence, the truth, of your thoughts? Why are you feeling how you feel? Why do you act as you do in a given moment?

Only when finding your truth, you can tell your story. The same applies to the characters within your story; you need to think and feel like they do. You need to find the character's truth to bring it to life in one of your tales.


Anne Lamott's book, Bird by Bird, gives you lots of practical tips on how to become a good writer. If you are looking for a magic formula, though, you will be disappointed.

According to Lamott, honing your writing skills is learning all about yourself and your surroundings. Like with meditation, you need to become aware of your emotions and feelings. This awareness can be quite painful, but at the same time, writing will soothe any pain you might have.

The rest is setting up a strict routine for your writing sessions, allowing yourself to write shitty first drafts and discipline.


  • Always write a shitty first draft
  • Become an excellent observer
  • Allow yourself to observe well by relaxing and focusing
  • Pay attention to details
  • Examine your self like you examine everything else around you
  • Write about yourself to train your skill
  • Write about everything around you to hone your writing
  • Become aware of how you feel in every present moment
  • Allow yourself to feel toxic anger and profound grief
  • Do not worry whether you are a good writer
  • Write!
  • Persist and write every day
  • Belief in your writing; if not, nobody will
  • Write about everything important to you
  • Do not wait for inspiration to strike; write instead
  • Follow a strict writing routine
  • Find the right place to write and go there every day
  • Find the best time to write; then write at around the same time every day
  • Commit yourself to your writing routine
  • Quiet your mind to allow yourself to hear your inner voice
  • Always write a shitty first draft
  • Do not block your creativity when writing the draft; just write
  • Enjoy writing the shitty first draft
  • Use successive drafts
  • When writer's block strikes, continue to write
  • Deeply care about your work
  • Don't get obsessed with getting published
  • Do not isolate yourself
  • Share and discuss your work with other writers
  • Try to protect your confidence while collecting feedback
  • Find writers who can give you supportive and critical feedback 

Bird by Bird Summary—related resources

  Here is a TED talk by Anne Lamott I enjoyed watching:

Read more about Anne Lamott on Wikipedia.

Get FREE access to all of my book summary PDFs, including the Bird by Bird PDF.

If you liked the Bird by Bird Summary, you might also enjoy reading the Drive Book Summary.

Posted on CuteMachine in career, communication and creativity.

Jo's Profile ImageWritten by Jo who lives and works in Frankfurt building digital doodah. Stalk him on Twitter.

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