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Do not save writing for later, more will come: ‘The Writing Life’ by Annie Dillard

The Writing Life,‘ a 1989 collection of essays from novelist Annie Dillard, is one of the foundational contributions to the canon of teaching modern fiction writing.

A few months ago, I finally tore through the tidy, celebrated, delightful little book, commonly known as the friendly, fiction alternative to the 1920 grammarian guide from Strunk and White. (Interestingly a New York Times book review took a dim view of her collection, but it’s cherished today.)

Here are a few notes from the book that stood most out to me:

  • You do not write a book but sit up with it like a dying friend. (p. 52)
  • You don’t write what everyone loves, you write what only you love (and see) Thoreau said to “know your own bone.” (67)
  • The art must enter the body (69)
  • Before taking on any writing project, you might ask: can it be done? And can I do it? (72)
  • Do not save writing for later, more will come. “It fills in like well water.” (79)
  • I thought danger was the safest thing in the world (107)
  • Common misusage of art as extreme of skill (111)

Photo via Unsplash by Aaron Burden.

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