Annie Dillard: The Writing Life

Annie Dillard

After reading a recommendation for the book “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard, I was delighted to find it at the library in town. But that delight soon turned to disappointment.

I didn’t like the book. The first chapter was fine, and the fifth chapter was good, but most of it annoyed me. If the book hadn’t been so small (just over a hundred pages), I probably wouldn’t have finished it. Annie Dillard’s worldview is largely reflected in the book, and that worldview–namely transcendentalism–I found highly depressing. A sense of hopelessness ran through it, as if she is constantly searching for reality. Every once in a while there would be a burst of hope in a paragraph, but then it would vanish.

That being said, Annie Dillard is a talented writer, and her prose is literary and poetic. Despite the fact that I don’t endorse the book, I did learn some helpful tips from it.

Don’t be afraid to reject unnecessary writing–Your writing is not for yourself. It’s for others to read. If something is not enhancing the story for your reader, scrap it.

Craft each sentence–A sentence is not just a string of words. It is music. Each word is a note that creates a melody. When we look at a sentence that way, we suddenly respect it more, and realize how much of an art form it is.

Write as if to terminal patients (because everyone is)–Sooner or later, everyone on this planet is going to die. That is reality. As writers we need to write something that is worth people’s time–something that makes a positive influence on the world.

What you read is what you write–In other words, read good books.

I suppose this is an odd review, giving a book a two-star rating and then sharing the things I like about it. But just like most things in life, there’s always a silver lining.

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4 thoughts on “Annie Dillard: The Writing Life

  1. When a creative person shares his/her work, it is a reflection of themselves to a varying extent. And when someone has such a skewed worldview, it will definitely show itself in the creative work.

    That’s how the latest Gungor album was for me. Musically, I thought it was good, but content wise, it was immensely depressing, and reflected greatly how their worldview had changed from a Scriptural based one to a new-age type of belief.

    The hope we have in Messiah is amazing. It changes the whole way you see the world, it allows you to see the joy and beauty, no matter what the circumstance. That is the mark of a believer, and it should be evident in our lives as well as our creative work.

    1. What you have said is so true, Jay! I love to discuss worldview, because it affects absolutely everything in life. The book was the same way–impressive writing, but depressing content. Thanks for the comment, Bro. :)

  2. I am so intrigued by your post because I have read Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life four or five times in my life, and each time, I love it more! At the same time, I completely agree with you that the book reflects her world view and that world view can at times feel the an impossible mountain to climb. I think perhaps the reason I most love the book is that I read it for the first time as a recent college graduate trying to pursue a career in writing, and in those pages, I discovered that writing was not just a job, but a life. I was immensely relieved at that time to understand that writing actually is an extension of one’s world view, as you say so well. Her line about “how you spend your days is actually how you spend your life” has prompted me again and again to be intentional in my activity or inactivity.

    Thanks for this post. It’s wonderful to stumble onto your blog and find agreement even in our disagreement! It’s a *joy* to meet you! Really.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Charity. It’s a *joy* to meet you too. :) Dillard is definitely a talented writer, and as I shared in the post, I did learn some very useful tips from the book. I remember that line about “how you spend your day.” That was a good one too!

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