Keep Writing and Moving Forward: Advice from Annie Dillard

by Kendra Bonnett on September 14, 2010

catnav-alchemy-activePost #22 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

When I read (I should say, re-read) a book like The Writing Life, I’m reminded that there is a handful of books–drawn from literature, the writing craft and, for me, business and marketing–that deserve to be picked up and reread at regular intervals. The Writing Life is one of these books.

Just as we change–and grow–as writers, so too our role as readers is dynamic and progressive. I’m not the same reader today when I pick up a copy of Walden or The Old Man and the Sea that I was in high school.

I read The Writing Life for the first time just a scant year ago. I appreciated Annie’s personal stories, found value in her introspection and beauty in her language. I embraced her message to keep writing and moving my work, my “line of words,” forward.

But when I went back to the book to prepare my Writing in Five video (below) I was struck more than ever by her craft. Rarely have I found a writer more spare of word able to convey simultaneously such richness of meaning and eloquence. Nothing. Not a single word is a throwaway. She packs message and purpose into every sentence.

Above all, Annie Dillard is the master of the one-sentence metaphor. Here are two she presents back to back to remind us that our audience–our readers–care only about the final production. Our destination. They care not how we got there. Our journey, our sweat and labor are irrelevant:

“How many books do we read from which the writer lacked courage to tie off the umbilical cord? How many gifts do we open from which the writer neglected to remove the price tag?”

The Writing Life is 111 pages packed tight with lessons, musings, technique and directive. Memoir writers, novelists, essayist, even poets will find Annie’s message on point.





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