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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anne Lamott) – my reading notes

It took me about however long it took me to FINALLY buy and read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. People have recommended Bird by Bird to me (particularly the Shitty First Drafts chapter) FOR YEARS. And it’s August of the year 2020 and I JUST got it. I would say that it’s weird that I literally *just* bought one of the books that was recommended to me THE MOST. After reading dozens of books about writing, and after writing hundreds of blog posts about the academic process. And while in the process of writing my two books on how to do academia.

I am SO GLAD I did.

Anne Lamott is a treasure, really.

My library of writing and “how to PhD”-type books is vast. I seriously have read a tonne of books on how to write. SERIOUSLY. Al types of books, as I mention below.

But I did a lot of competitive stuff, and when you compete against others, you learn to try to be The Best. I played nationally-ranked competitive volleyball since I was a child until my late 20s. I danced competitively. I didn’t just dance to have fun. I danced to win contests. Lammott’s approach reminds me of Brene Brown’s words: “when you live a wholehearted life, you learn to be kinder and gentler with yourself”.

I believe that’s the component that is missing in the structure of academia. We need a gentler, kinder academia, one that builds us up. Though Lamott writes for novelists, the way in which she talks about character, plot, story development, is extremely useful for all of us who do scholarly research.

In my view, research is about telling a story. With data, with theory, but it’s a story in the end. We reveal things. We explain concepts. We make the complex legible. Storytelling is an underrated skill in scholarly research and writing. Yes, I’m happy you can program with Python and that you develop multilevel models. Can you tell me the story of what your model reveals?

I am not joking when I said that reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird has transformed the way I think about and relate to writing.

100/10 would buy for all my friends and family.

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