- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (Nov. 12 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060919884
- ISBN-13: 978-0060919887
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 0.7 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 113 g
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #39,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Writing Life Paperback – Nov 12 2013
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Annie Dillard has spent a lot of time in remote, bare-bones shelters doing something she claims to hate: writing. Slender though it is, The Writing Life richly conveys the torturous, tortuous, and in rare moments, transcendent existence of the writer. Even for Dillard, whose prose is so mellifluous as to seem effortless, the act of writing can seem a Sisyphean task: "When you write," she says, "you lay out a line of words.... Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow or this time next year." Amid moving accounts of her own writing (and life) experiences, Dillard also manages to impart wisdom to other writers, wisdom having to do with passion and commitment and taking the work seriously. "One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place.... Something more will arise for later, something better." And, if that is not enough, "Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients," she says. "That is, after all, the case.... What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?"
This all makes The Writing Life seem a dense, tough read, but that is not the case at all. Dillard is, after all, human, just like the rest of us. During one particularly frantic moment, four cups of coffee and not much writing down, Dillard comes to a realization: "Many fine people were out there living, people whose consciences permitted them to sleep at night despite their not having written a decent sentence that day, or ever." --Jane Steinberg
From Publishers Weekly
"In this collection of short essays, the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and An American Childhood probes the sorcery that levitates her own writing, discussing with clear eye and wry wit how, where and why she writes," said PW .
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Then you have deal-breakers such as the following: "It should surprise no one that the life of the writer--such as it is--is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author's childhood. A writer's childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience."
Ask yourself: how many writers, like Dillard, are privileged enough to be able to winter in seaside cabins in order to devote all their time to writing? How many writers, working in ANY genre, do not honour the real world as an irreplaceable and primary source, regardless how much or not they intend to reflect it? This is just one example of Dillard at her least self-scrutinizing and, for that fact, least wise. (Wisdom ostensibly being the book's offering.)
For a work whose focus boomerangs so frequently back to a writer's insecurities and uncertainties, "The Writing Life" is remarkably sure of itself, seemingly unaware that it's a shining example of why writers need such character flaws in the first place.
Dillard's book reads like a series of journal entries, which may indeed have been its origin. Some of the entries are amusing, for example Dillard's description of her weeks-long, late-night chess game with an unknown opponent who, she briefly thinks, just might be the diaper-clad but otherwise naked baby she finds hovering around the board one evening. But some of the entries are mere poetic, well, nonsense: "The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illumines the path just before its fragile tip. You probe with it, delicate as a worm." The Writing Life cannot, I should think, be of any practical benefit to writers. And it is neither a "guidebook" nor a particularly inspiring piece of prose, however much the blurbists may rave. But it is intermittently interesting, and, after all, it is a very quick read.
The Writing Life talks mostly about how a person must adjust their life in order to write. "Putting a book together is interesting and exhilarating. It is sufficiently difficult and complex that it engages all your intelligence. It is life at its most free. Your freedom as a writer is not freedom of expressions in the sense of wild blurting; you may not let rip. It is life at its most free, if you are fortunate enough to be able to try it, because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself." Dillard has her own views on the life of a writer. She describes her various work places such as a one-room log cabin and a non-insulated prefabricated tool shed. Annie Dillard's life is affected in many ways due to the writer's lifestyle.
What I didn't expect was to read about Dillard's "solution", if you will, to such problems. Distraction, and the subsequent problems it produces when trying to create quality prose, seem to be Dillard's greatest enemy. Who could tell that Annie, for example wrote "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" while cooped up? That's unbelievable! Dillard, it seems, writes best when alone in a small, windowless room where, without any stimulation to distract her, she is forced to focus on her writing. It is during such times that she produces her most beautiful and memorable work. This is a profound lesson that I am trying to find the discipline to follow. Only then, will my work be as good as it can be. I thank Annie Dillard for sharing and for her honesty.
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As clear a piece of imigry as Teaching A Stone to Talk.Read more
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