Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

I have learned that it's best to not have any pre-conceived notions about the work you're about to jump into. It's just easier if you don't read reviews, if you don't see trailers... ok maybe this is ideal. I like ideals.

I had no idea what The Writing Life was about before I opened the first page. This, gave me “wiggle room” to appreciate its writing for what it is. A metaphorical, allegorical, perception of what it is to be a writer from a writer. There are snippets of writing, snippets of Dillard's life while she wrote. There is even a study of an inchworm.

I found this study to be most accurate in describing my writing life.

Dillards study:
Few sights are so absurd as that of an inchworm leading its dimwit lie. Inchworms are the caterpillar larvae of several moths or butterflies. The cabbage looper, for example, is an inchworm. I often see an inchworm: it is a skinny bright green thing, pale and thin as a vein, an inch long. It wears out its days in constant panic.
Every inchworm I have seen was stuck in long grasses. The wretched inchworm hangs from side of a grassblade and throws its head around from side to side, seeming to wail. What! No further? Its back pairs of nubs rear back and flail in the air, What? It searches everywhere in the wide world for the rest of the grass, which is right under its nose. By dumb luck it touches the grass. Its front legs hang on; it lifts and buckles its green inch, and places its hind legs just behind its front legs. Its body makes a loop, a bight. All it has to do now is slide its front up its had and front legs, flings its upper body out into the void, and panics again. What! No further? End of world? And so forth, until it actually reaches the grasshead's tip. By then its wee weight may be davening apocalyptic prayers sway the grasshead and bump it into something. I have seen it many times. The blind and frantic numbskull makes it off one grassblade and onto another one, which it will climb in virtual hysteria for several hours. Every step brings it to the unverse's rim. And now—What! No further? End of world? A, here's ground. What! No further? Yike!
I often feel like the inchworm described when I write. Sometimes, things come in unorganized spurts. Other times I finish a scene, and then my brain kicks into What! No further? End of world? mode. Actually, it's that mode that creeps along too often. It's why I never finished a novel. Why some poetry books never got tied together.

Interestingly enough, it's the reason why I don't consider myself a serious writer. And according to serious writers writing is their full time job. They don't sit around waiting for inspiration, they just sit down and write. Somehow this translates to never having writers block, too. Other times, it leads to having slow writing days.

These serious writers emphasize, and reiterate that amateur writers do not have discipline to write. That if amateur writers were serious writers, then they would just pick up a pen and write! But all that is hogwash. Serious writer or not, writing is a different process to different people. Some people are so practiced, so adept at creating writing on a scheduled basis. Other people are not. Discussing the seriousness of a writer based off of that fact is pointless.

Do you like reading books; watching movies? Have you ever come across a book or movie that inspired you to write about it? I'm looking for guest bloggers.


Joined in Thoughtful's From the Bookshelf.


  1. I wish I could just sit down and write without having to wait for inspiration. Great review!

    1. Me too. I hear it takes a lot of practice.