I had hoped to glean some rare look into how to write skilfully from Dillard's writing. This page book took me three days to read normally I would have finished in 30 minutes however I wanted to absorb each gem of knowledge, and so kept reading intently, taking breaks hoping it would get better the next time I picked it up. Most writers seem to spend an As a writer with only one published novel I am always looking to learn more about the writing life, looking to hone my skills, to improve.
What a complete waste of time this book was. Jan 12, Tiffany Reisz added it. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive.
Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes. I think if I had read this book out of curiosity, and not in the middle of a class where I am writing and having to revise that writing the hardest part for me , I may not have rated it so highly. But every word Annie Dillard includes in here is important.
The Writing Life
Some stories are not immediately apparent. Why am I reading about chopping wood, skipping fireworks, and alligators? She always brings it back around to the discipline of writing, a discipline that I don't really have I think anyo I think if I had read this book out of curiosity, and not in the middle of a class where I am writing and having to revise that writing the hardest part for me , I may not have rated it so highly.
I think anyone who writes or dreams of writing should read this book. You can save some of the sentences, like bricks. It will be a miracle if you can save some of the paragraphs, no matter how excellent in themselves or hard-won. You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over with now. Are you a woman, or a mouse? But a life spent reading - that is a good life. I hold its hand and hope it will get better. It reverts to a wild state overnight You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. Probe and search each object in a piece of art.
Do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength. Feb 02, Ken rated it really liked it Shelves: Short, quick pager at least in the version I read that really reads like an extension of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek with its tone and ample use of quotes and anecdotes. The only difference, really, is that this work focuses more and at times less on writing.
A few things of interest: Dillard has little use for using brand names in your writing, so I guess she's of the belief that it spoils your chances for classic status when you embed stuff that is sure to become dated. She also espouses a v Short, quick pager at least in the version I read that really reads like an extension of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek with its tone and ample use of quotes and anecdotes.
She also espouses a variation of the "you are what you eat" philosophy by saying your writing is what you read don't I wish! If you want to be a novelist, you read novels for the sheer joy of it. If you want to be a poet, you read poems because you can't help yourself. Otherwise, you are my words a poser, and for some reason, the writer pose is one a certain breed of person can't help but strike. I'll leave you with some Dillard-style advice: Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients.
This is, after all, the case.
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What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality? Write about winter in the summer. Recently, scholars learned that Walt Whitman rarely left his room.
The Writing Life - Annie Dillard - Paperback
Speaking of, Dillard also insists you avoid a view. Situate your desk to look at walls or, if a window is nearby, may it look over ugly roof lines. The view has to be mental, in other words, so have at it. The life of a true artist is neither simple nor swift. Appreciated this little treasure every bit as much the second time around.
Dillard is a miner of meaningful truths from the ordinary world—her prose is fierce, invigorating, and unrelentingly beautiful. Read it for sympathy in your struggles as a writer: I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hol Appreciated this little treasure every bit as much the second time around.
Read it for vindication: Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks; he claimed he knocked it off in his spare time from a twelve-hour-a-day job performing manual labor. There are other examples from other continents and centuries, just as albinos, assassins, saints, big people, and little people show up from time to time in large populations. Out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, perhaps twenty can write a serious book in a year. Some people lift cars, too. Some people enter week-long sled-dog races, go over Niagara Falls in barrels, fly planes through the Arc de Triomphe.
Some people feel no pain in childbirth. Some people eat cars. The reason to perfect a piece of prose as it progresses—to secure each sentence before building on it—is that original writing fashions a form. It unrolls out into nothingness. It grows cell to cell, bole to bough to twig to leaf; any careful word may suggest a route, may begin a strand of metaphor or event out of which much, or all, will develop.
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Perfecting the work inch by inch, writing from the first word toward the last, displays the courage and fear this method induces. The strain … enlivens the work and impels it toward its truest end. Testing the wall, checking that everything is plumb, before moving on. She tells of whole days spent when only a paragraph is produced; when she consumes coffee after coffee, cigarette after cigarette, and searches her cabin for anything to do but write.
She compares crafting a sentence to wrestling an alligator. You are wrong if you think that you can in any way take the vision and tame it to the page. The page is jealous and tyrannical; the page is made of time and matter; the page always wins. The vision is not so much destroyed, exactly, as it is, by the time you have finished, forgotten.
It has been replaced by this changeling, this bastard, this opaque, lightless, chunky ruinous work. The line of words is heading out past Jupiter this morning. Traveling kilometers a second, it makes no sound. The big yellow planet and its white moons spin. The line of words speeds past Jupiter and its cumbrous, dizzying orbit; it looks neither to the right nor to the left. It will be leaving the solar system soon, single-minded, rapt, rushing heaven like a soul. The time it takes to breeze through this little book is well spent indeed.
Mar 05, Libbie Hawker L. Ironside rated it it was amazing Shelves: This might be the only book about writing anybody needs. It's not a book that tells you how to write. But I've never found those books to be useful anyway. This is a book about what it is like to be a writer. Not "be a writer" as in "being able to tell strangers that you're a writer and then enjoying the instinctive looks of awe on their faces," nor "be a writer" as in "manage a career writing books.
It is told, as per Dillard usual, in a series of stunningly, quietly beautiful sketches, small anecdotes that when taken as a whole impart both wise advice and understanding to the fellow obsesser over a single sentence; yet never is the point of the narrative stated plainly, and that makes it all the more accessible and pretty and sincere. This is a book that speaks directly to those who live "with one foot in fatal salt water and one foot on a billion grains of sand.
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View all 6 comments. Feb 15, Richard Gilbert rated it it was amazing. The Writing Life is about persistent inquiry and love. A sort of commiseration, it contains rules of thumb: It can take years and heartbreak to see that—another given. Neighborly advice is unintentional, however. However, as a veteran, she offers this: Into a long, ambitious project you can fit or pour all you possess and learn. Dillard adds this spooky caution: He is careful of what he learns, for that is what he will know. She counts a life spent reading as a good one, though her fascination with bugs and rocks and stars draws her outside.
When writing her books, she stared at the wall: One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark. She piled up 1, pages. It took ten years. The Maytrees, a shimmering work of art published in , is pages. She said it almost killed her and announced her retirement after twelve books. Sometime during the two to ten years it takes someone to write a decent book another precept the writer should read The Writing Life. Mar 19, Michael rated it it was ok. I had to read this for a course and my professor said that some people will love Annie Dillard, while others will hate her.
I am of the latter camp. I'm not sure what I was expecting from reading this book. Maybe some kind of interesting wisdom about writing? What I got, though, was a highly pretentious piece of work that read like a self-help book. It spoke about a bunch of things but the sum of the message was basically empty. Dillard seems to assume that all writers can live her lifestyle of se I had to read this for a course and my professor said that some people will love Annie Dillard, while others will hate her. Dillard seems to assume that all writers can live her lifestyle of seclusion while writing while subsisting on a diet of coffee and cigarettes and god knows what else.
Further, she adds to this already sleep-inducing series of metaphors about writing with her own travels and some people she's met. She goes on one particularly extensive scene where she talks to a friend of hers who paints. When she asks him how he's doing with his work, he tells a long story that ultimately leads up to one simple thought, making me question why this story was even needed in a book about writing. I didn't give this book one star only because, scattered among the detritus ie.
Jan 08, Mimi Marten rated it liked it. If you're looking for a book about insights and struggles of a writing life, this is NOT it. I got this book as a present from my partner. He knows I love books about writing craft, always looking for ways to hone and improve my skills. I read this book on a flight. It's only pages long and I was certain I will still be able to watch a movie on my 5 hour flight. I had to put it down several times and it took another 6 hour flight to finish it.
It was like a love and hate relationship, hoping i If you're looking for a book about insights and struggles of a writing life, this is NOT it. It was like a love and hate relationship, hoping it will get better. I'm always respectful and supportive of other authors. With all do respect to Annie Dillard, I often wondered if she was high?
I wouldn't recommend this for aspiring writers. For me, this book was a collection of journal entries, full of contradictions, procrastinating and her writing life borderline depressing. It's autobiographical with poetic tone and very self-absorbed. The part that I liked was the metaphorical comparisons, some bits of humor and some memorable quotes. I would sum it up with the great master Ernest Hemingway "Writing at it's best Jan 30, Greg rated it liked it Shelves: Eh, it was ok.
Dillard describes the difficulties of writing, the long wrestling match that goes into a writer fighting with his or her subject and the way that original subjects are sometimes lost along the way in the process of writing. I could feel the amount of struggle that goes into her writing, almost in every line, and personally I feel like it saps some of the power from her work when you can almost feel that each every sentence has been crafted over and pounded into 'perfection'.
There Eh, it was ok. There are a few inspiring nuggets for would be writers, but for every piece of inspiration there are at least five moments where a would be writer would ask, why would I want to do this to myself? This is the first book I've read by Dillard, but it won't be the last. Her writing is forceful, muscular and insightful, and I'd love to see how that translates into her fiction. The only reason I'm giving this 4 stars instead of 5 is because I got bogged down in the last chapter about her experiences flying with the stunt pilot, which probably says much more about me than it does her.
Anyone interested in knowing how a writer works and thinks should read this. View all 41 comments. Sep 10, Nina rated it liked it. As a fledgling fiction writer, I really liked the author's descriptions of the challenges, heartaches and joys of writing. Some of her passages made me laugh and others made me realize I was not alone.
I would have preferred if the whole book were observations on writing as I did not find the memoir parts particularly interesting, thus the 3-star rating. Many quotable sections in this piece, and I am forcing myself to select only one: I am thinking about Elizabeth Gilbert's essay on her website, on the same topic, where she says something along the lines of "Write, write like your hair is on fire" in response to the question these work Many quotable sections in this piece, and I am forcing myself to select only one: I am thinking about Elizabeth Gilbert's essay on her website, on the same topic, where she says something along the lines of "Write, write like your hair is on fire" in response to the question these works attempt to answer, which is first and foremost how one becomes a writer.
What I really like about her text here is that she doesn't moralize on the craft; she describes it. If I want to finish my chapter, I have to aim for completing my novel and publishing the final product. I agree it is important to focus on the task at hand, but remembering the overall goal and keeping it in sight is key as well. I want to leave you with one final quote, which struck me as something one could write underneath their name in an email signature, or use as their senior quote in high school. I highly recommend journeying with Ms. Dillard by reading her text, which is as much about life as it is writing.
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