To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal, but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be part of the solution, to understand a little about life and pass it on.
Here Lamott emphasizes that good writing is often moral, and that good writers must be passionate about their subject matter. Lamott takes pains to use the word moral without giving it a moralizing or religious connotation, although her religious beliefs have certainly permeated her own worldview. Both religion and writing attempt to make sense of an often complicated world. Lamott constantly reiterates that though writers might feel outside of society, their job is to call attention to things others might miss. In this way, writers serve as guides to the mysteries of human nature.
Lamott’s view of morality is inextricably linked with giving and community. For her, the act of writing can be moral only when it thinks of the community at large or attempts to give back. Giving back is a big theme in Bird by Bird. Lamott often describes her writing as a way to give back to loved ones who are suffering. She also advocates writing as a tribute to those writers who were inspirations. Lamott has little use for writing that doesn’t deal with larger themes of existence. This, for Lamott, is the loftiest aspiration of any writer.