Sunday, January 29, 2023

Annie Dillard's The Writing Life (Classics Club Spin #32)

I finished my Classics Club Spin! Glory be! I would also like to mention that I have revised my Classics Club list yet again. Check it out here.

I love reading about an author's writing life. Not only talking about the craft, but their process and experiences with their own writing. Annie Dillard does not mince words. She is very upfront in regards to writing being incredibly daunting. That being said, she also describes writing as being wonderfully fulfilling, magical at times (she has had some pretty strange and fantastical experiences). 

Since I am starting work on the first draft of my novel, I especially appreciated this passage:

"For writing a first draft requires from the writer a peculiar internal state which ordinary life does not induce. If you were a Zulu warrior banging on your shield with your spear for a couple of hours along with a hundred other Zulu warriors, you might be able to prepare yourself to write. If you were an Aztec maiden who knew months in advance that on a certain morning the priests were going to throw you into a hot volcano, and if you spent those months undergoing a series of purification rituals and drinking dubious liquids, you might, when the time came, be ready to write. But how, if you are neither Zulu warrior nor Aztec maiden, do you prepare yourself, all alone, to enter an extraordinary state on an ordinary morning." pp.46-47

She discusses how we, as writers, can never find anything written about "your fascination with something no one else understands." She says, "because it is up to you." 
"The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one's own most intimate sensitivity." --Anne Truitt

I saw somewhere someone had given this book a low rating and called her Annie Dullard. I did not find this dull at all. In fact, there were even some funny moments. While reading the scene between her and the sheriff (p. 54), I found myself chuckling. She is rather witty. 

To Dillard, writing is something that is life itself. She quotes Evelyn Underhill late in the book: "He goes because he must, as Galahad went towards the Grail: knowing that for those who can live it, this alone is life."

For those of us compelled to write, we must do it. It sometimes may take years, we may never be published, and yet, we must write.

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