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Follow me as I follow Jesus

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“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Learning, reading, and writing are three of my favorite things in the world. Anne Lamott’s classic Bird by Bird combined all three in a way that often left me laughing and filled with the constant desire to put the book down and write my own words.

Whether you are a writer or not, it is my hope the following quotes encourage and motivate you to use your gifts and do your thing—that thing that gets your blood pumping, brain firing, and soul soaring—at the highest possible level to love others in the greatest way possible.

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“This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of—please forgive me—wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in our small, bordered worlds.”

“Truth doesn’t come out in bumper stickers. There may be a flickering moment of insight in a one-liner, in a sound bite, but everyday meat-and-potato truth is beyond our ability to capture in a few words.”

“Tell the truth and write about freedom and fight for it, however you can, and you will be richly rewarded.”

“Take the attitude that what you are thinking and feeling is valuable stuff, and then be naive enough to get it all down on paper.”

“Some of the loneliest, most miserable, neurotic, despicable people we know have been the most successful in the world.”

“Being a writer guarantees that you will spend too much time alone—and that as a result, your mind will begin to warp.”

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Learning is always done best in community. Biscuit (the dog) also enjoyed Bird by Bird, don’t let his naps fool you.

“The culture and the age and all the fear that fills our days have put almost everyone into little boxes, each of us all alone. But baseball, if we love it, gives us back our place in the crowd. It restores us.”

“If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”

“Try not to feel sorry for yourselves, I say, when you find the going hard and lonely. You seem to want to write, so write. … You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories and inventiveness made tangible.”

“And who knows? Maybe what you’ve written will help others, will be a small part of the solution. You don’t even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

One comment on “11 Quotes from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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