Last updated on February 26, 2021
Annie Dillard wrote a book for writers that arrived in my mail a few weeks ago.
A supportive friend sent it to me as congratulations on giving full-time writing a go.
The book’s called The Writing Life. It’s a collection of anecdotes and insights about what it means to write and be a writer.
The Writing Life isn’t a handbook on how to write. It’s more a documentation of what it means to be a writer. It’s a marvelous little book, humorous, entertaining, and inspiring.
Reading it, a writer finds themselves nodding their head as Dillard dissects writing and the writer’s life.
You should get a copy of the book if you’re a writer. Or, if you have a writer in your life, your relationship with that person could benefit from you reading The Writing Life as well.
Below are some excerpts from the book that shined most true to me. These passages are a tiny dose of the beauty that awaits you when you read The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (paid link).
Amazing Annie Dillard Quotes on Writing
“Writing every book, the writer must solve two problems: Can it be done? and, Can I do it?”
“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it.”
“On plenty of days the writer can write three or four pages, and on plenty of other days he concludes he must throw them away.”
“Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? Because it is up to you. There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.”
“I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend.”
“It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby-Dick. So you might as well write Moby-Dick.”
“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case.”
“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 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.”
“Why people want to be writers I will never know, unless it is that their lives lack a material footing.”
“Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.”
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