The Writing Life is a short but inspiring book about finding the motivation and follow-through for your writing. It’s not about craft, but I think after a certain point you’ve probably read all of the craft how-tos you need.
I love Dillard’s intensity. She writes with fierce observation. Apparently she finds writing wildly dreadful, and yet does it anyway because that’s what she does. Even if you’re not the sort who writes every sentence in sweat, blood, and tears, you can probably still find her experience instructive in some way.
Although this book is about writing, it’s really about life. In fact, I think if you enjoy reading you’d like it, even if you don’t write as one of your callings. One of Dillard’s strong metaphors is built on the most effective way to chop wood. You can, apparently, hack away at the piece of wood, missing and splintering all over the place, or you can aim through the wood at the center of the chopping block. This is helpful for writing, but even more so for life. Dillard points out that focusing on momentary happiness is not the way to build a good life:
“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.”
Another universally applicable concept from writing is Dillard’s admonition to give your best now rather than hoarding it. You can pour your best effort and material into your writing, your parenting, your job, and so forth, and trust that the well will not run dry.
While not a long book, The Writing Life is full of thoughtful insights and I’d recommend it–whether to inspire your writing or your day-to-day life.
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