The Writing Life

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Photo of author Anne Lamott

It’s probably not often enough that Anne Lamott and Stephen King are mentioned in the same breath, but both are award-winning authors who have written important books that discuss the “the writing life.” Both explore their writing processes and share glimpses into the childhoods that shaped them into writers in their titles Bird by Bird (Lamott) and On Writing (King).

Among many other tips in their books, each author offers a memorable metaphor for writing that breaks it down to a one-step-at-a-time approach.

Lamott’s title of Bird by Bird comes from her father’s advice for her brother, who was paralyzed by the immenseness of a tackling a school project about birds that he had spent three months procrastinating on: “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird,” her father said. Lamott applies this same advice to her writing as well.

King likens storytelling to an archeologist discovering dinosaur bones—and like the archeologist slowly digs up the skeleton using finer and more sophisticated tools as she goes along, a story can reveal itself bone by bone. Via this, King is offering the writer space to not always know the exact ending when beginning a story.

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Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Practical information and encouragement from the author’s personal experience as the daughter of a writer and as a novelist and writing instructor. Lamott offers tips on skills such as producing credible dialog and collecting phrases and observations, and she also describes her own writing life. Some strong language. Bestseller. 1994.

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Stephen King
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Prolific, bestselling horror novelist describes his writing technique and gives tips for aspiring authors. King also discusses pertinent events from his childhood and tells of the near-fatal accident in 1999, when he was hit by a truck while taking his daily walk. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2000.