The Writing Life

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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

Product Details

  • Paperback: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (November 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060919884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060919887
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces

Customer Reviews

Five Stars

One person found this helpful.
 on November 22, 2016
By Old Rose
Love it.

Art of the matter, ahem

 on July 31, 2013
By Patrick Sherriff
A thoughtful, if brief, look at the act of writing as art. Packed full of analogies – writing as splitting logs, writing as mining, writing as barrelling through the air in a biplane. A couple of profound thoughts and revelations about time-wasting, it’s eminently quotable. I read it cover to cover in the course of a day when I should have been writing myself, so there’s that. Bit too much lone artist writing in tool sheds in barren windswept writerly landscapes for me to give five stars. But that says more about me than Dillard.

Well written, a bit rambling

One person found this helpful.
 on August 7, 2013
By Russ Herald
I couldn’t but help love how Annie Dillard framed her prose, and wove searches for meaning in and through her experiences as a writer. Her words are not ones to read too quickly, but like a good wine too see, smell, taste, and savor.

Not quite what I expected but always interested in writers …

One person found this helpful.
 on February 23, 2016
By Kenneth R. Stock
Not quite what I expected but always interested in writers expounding on their craft and what has effected the development of their skills.

it provided me a good perspective on the pain and mundanity that can go …

 on July 31, 2016
By Va W
As someone interested in taking up writing, it provided me a good perspective on the pain and mundanity that can go along with the profession. Her style is her own and stays true. Enjoyable, but felt a little incomplete.

"Write as if you were dying…

One person found this helpful.
 on November 24, 2013
By Harper Curtis
At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case.”

Great Book

 on June 21, 2013
By Alex Washoe
Annie Dillard is such an amazing writer, and here she turns her considerable gifts toward describing the writer’s life. Beautiful, inspirational, funny and poetic.

Inspiring reading for writers

 on March 19, 2014
By Michael Quinn
A great journal on the writing process and what to expect from yourself if you want to write. Dillard makes no bones about the difficult struggle that is the creative process. At the same time, she manages to inspire this reader to continue anyway. I found it very easy to pick up, read just a passage or two and renew my own work. Great inspirational reading for any creative endeavor.

Excellent grounding work for all aspiring writers and seasoned writers and established writers.

2 people found this helpful.
 on August 5, 2013
By Mark Norby
Get it. Read it. Live it. This is a book that my MFA program recommends and I’ve found it many other places in quotes from researchers, scientists, as well as writers that are the most regular readers of this great work. It is a guide for living.

Annie Dillard helped me look at writing in a whole …

One person found this helpful.
 on March 1, 2015
By Byron McMillan
Annie Dillard helped me look at writing in a whole new light. This work inspired me in ways that I had not anticipated. I’m writing everyday now. Thanks, Annie!

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