Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
This quotation addresses the title of the book, and also provides insight into Lamott’s philosophy on writing and life. As a child, Lamott’s brother was once overwhelmed by a huge school project on birds. His father’s simple yet profound advice was to take it “bird by bird,” or one small step at a time. Lamott firmly believes that writers should start small, by thinking about discrete events in great detail, like one event from childhood. In this way, they will not be intimidated by the vastness of the task ahead of them. This quotation also emphasizes the importance of patience and faith. If writers write with discipline, they will be able to accomplish great things.
The fact that Lamott chooses the phrase “Bird by bird” as the title of her book is a tribute to her father, and his influence on her. Not only was he a writer who encouraged his daughter’s own writing, but also he was the inspiration for her first book after falling ill with brain cancer. Lamott is a largely autobiographical writer, and Bird by Bird is partly a memoir of her experience and her life. By choosing her father’s advice to serve as her title, she continues to use her memories as a source of inspiration.