One of the best, wisest, funniest book about writing and LIFE is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Written over 20 years ago when Lamott was 40, it is packed with enduring wisdom.

When she discovered she was turning 61 last Wednesday, Lamott decided to “take the opportunity to write down every single thing I know, as of today,” on her Facebook and the post went viral. We recognize some from her many books.

Here’s a tonifying excerpt to start your week — with our favorites bold-faced. (You can read the whole thing here.):


All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here…It has been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides.

Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. 

Families; hard, hard, hard, no matter how cherished and astonishing they may also be. (See #1 again.) …Earth is Forgiveness School. You might as well start at the dinner table.

Grace: Spiritual WD-40. Water wings…The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and our world. To summon grace, say, “Help!” And then buckle up…

Emerson said that the happiest person on earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot, and look up.

Exercise: If you want to have a good life after you have grown a little less young, you must walk almost every day. There is no way around this. If you are in a wheelchair, you must do chair exercises. Every single doctor on earth will tell you this, so don’t go by what I say.

Death; wow. So f-ing hard to bear, when the few people you cannot live without die. You will never get over these losses, and are not supposed to… Grief, friends, time and tears will heal you. Tears will bathe and baptize and hydrate you and the ground on which you walk.

With thanks to Susan Dworski for alerting us!!

If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

4 replies on “Must Read: Anne Lamott’s “Everything I know”

  1. Thank you Sally,Susan and certainly Anne!

    If I may add, (with a few dozen cups of humility).

    Being of a similar age to Anne, having just married a fellow twenty years my senior – the lessons continue…

    my partner recently shared with me ” the best part of getting older- I don’t have to be right any more”

    Talk about freedom…

  2. Thank you. I bought my first copy of Bird by Bird back in the ’90’s after hearing Ms. Lamott interviewed on the radio and laughing harder than I had in years. It’s a book I’ve given as a gift many times and will never stop giving. There’s a hard core of books that bear re-reading every couple of years, and that is one of them.

  3. YES! Lamott is a tonic I could use every single day. Her insights are always an affirmation. There is a longer version of this on Anne’s Facebook dated April 8, 2015. Go for it!

  4. Im floored .
    I have not read her book. Im heading to the bookstore.
    I dont do facebook, how can I possibly read this longer list?
    A breath of freshness is running thru me.
    Thank you both Sally and Anne.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *