The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

In this scattering of personal reflections and insights on her life as a writer, Dillard ponders the emotional angst common to many writers. Yet she weaves nuggets of humor throughout. “Why people want to be writers I will never know, unless it is that their lives lack a material footing.”

She reflects on authors who clutch tightly ideas which no longer work in their manuscript, yet the writer is loathe to give up: “How many books do we read from which the writer lacked courage to tie off the umbilical cord…Is it pertinent, is it courteous, for us to learn what it cost the writer personally?”

While defining writing as just “a line of words”, Dillard ponders the inchworm: “It wears out its days in constant panic…The wretched inchworm hangs from the sides of a grass blade and throws its head around from side to side, seeming to wail. What? No further…End of world?” “’Why don’t you just jump?’ I tell it, disgusted. ‘Put yourself out of your misery.’”

Writers often lament distractions which keep us from sitting in the chair to write. Dillard scolds, “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.”

I found this book to be worth a read and enjoyed Dillard’s ability to laugh at herself; A worthy trait, lest writers take ourselves too seriously.


This post first appeared 8/31/12 on Raise Your Eyes.


3 thoughts on “The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

  1. Pingback: Inspiration to sit down and write already! « Britt Alder

  2. Pingback: Inspiration to sit down and write already! « Britt Ahlstrom's blog of writing and pretty things

  3. I honestly just started this audiobook (I can’t read books on writing, but I enjoy listening to them as I do other tasks), and I have to say that Dillard’s take on the inchworm kicked me in the butt when I kept going, “But I think I’ve lost my creative spark…”


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