Just read The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. A new improv friend, Troy Terpstra, who happens to be a talented artist headed for Paris next week, gave it to me out of the blue. I love that kind of generosity.
This book isn’t really memoir, but about life as a writer. Dillard points out that, historically, successful writers spend a disproportionate amount of time sitting quietly alone in a tiny room, pouring over the past, mostly their childhoods, rather than living in the present. The thought is a little bleak. I guess I’ve been doing too much living lately and not enough writing!
About half of this book takes place on one of the San Juan Islands and occasionally in Bellingham. A big surprise for me. Now I want to find out where she stayed so I can be a geeky fan.
There were many little gems of advice for writers in this little book, but here’s my favorite:
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, fro benath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes. After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: “Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.”
I think Mike and I have decided that we’ll be getting a second lap top just for me to use for my writing, so that when I feel like writing, I don’t have to work around sharing the computer with the three other men in my household.
Cross your fingers for me that I’ll hear next week from the two agents I’m still waiting on.
Happy New Year