The Writing Life
By: Annie Dillard
Harper Perennial (November 12, 2013)
In The Writing Life, the famous Annie Dillard simply writes here about her life as a writer. Never heard of Annie Dillard? Shame on you. She won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction when she was 29 (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek). If you ever wanted to write anything, this book provides a glimpse at how one of the greats does it. Spoiler Alert: It is mostly a lot of hard work.
Two of my favorite quotes:
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. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality? Write about winter in the summer. Describe Norway as Ibsen did, from a desk in Italy; describe Dublin as James Joyce did, from a desk in Paris. Willa Cather wrote her prairie novels in New York City; Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in Hartford, Connecticut. Recently, scholars learned that Walt Whitman rarely left his room.
Writers read literary biography, and surround themselves with other writers, deliberately to enforce in themselves the ludicrous notion that a reasonable option for occupying yourself on the planet until your life span plays itself out is sitting in a small room for the duration, in the company of pieces of paper.