Life Adventure

How Does Annie Dillard Describe Freedom as a Writer

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Living a Writing Life

Your freedom as a writer is not freedom of expression
in the sense of wild blurting;
you may not let it rip.
It is life at its most free,
if you are fortunate enough to be able to try it,
because you select your materials,
invent your task,
and pace yourself.

Annie Dillard
Annie Dillard says this about freedom as a writer to live a writing life.
Annie Dillard Freedom as Writer

Writing Life

What is a writing life?

  • Does it involve endless suffering?
  • Is it liberating?
  • Do you think that suffering for art is pretentious?
  • Is writing something that you love to do, but you don't struggle?
  • Is writing a pragmatic skill you use to make a living?

Here are some random comments from goodreads about the writing of Annie Dillard.

Comment by Dolors

This is a brief yet intense essay on the art, or as Dillard would say, the burden of writing that will delight readers and aspiring writers alike.

Writing is a way of life, and Dillard’s relationship with words is, to say the least, controversial.
Her lucid ponderings on the obsessive nature of those who devote their lives to squeeze the world out into sentences, limited by expression and linguistic patterns, are as petrifying as they are eye-opening…

Comment by Jillian Haas

Annie Dillard wrote a brutally honest description of her relationship and struggles with the process of writing. Instead of the usual advice about showing, not telling, etc that I see etched inside my eyelids, as I read The Writing Life, I was compelled to copy its poetic quotes on note cards that I'll use as bookmarks…

Comment by Jeff Jackson 

I have a love/hate thing with this book. On the one hand, it's a brilliant poetic evocation of the creative process. On the other, the process is so romanticized and the examples exalt such a rarified form of extreme self-sacrifice that I half-suspect Dillard is trying to discourage and/or sabotage future generations. It's a five star meal with a dash of arsenic. Approach with caution…

This might be the only book about writing anybody needs. It's not a book that tells you how to write. But I've never found those books to be useful anyway. This is a book about what it is like to be a writer. Not "be a writer" as in "being able to tell strangers that you're a writer and then enjoying the instinctive looks of awe on their faces," nor "be a writer" as in "manage a career writing books." It is a book about what it's like to obsess over a single sentence for days or weeks, what it's like to feel the frailty of art and the responsibility for creating it, what it's like to know that what you do ultimately matters very little, yet you feel compelled to do it anyway…

Comment by Michael

I had to read this for a course and my professor said that some people will love Annie Dillard, while others will hate her. I am of the latter camp.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from reading this book. Maybe some kind of interesting wisdom about writing? What I got, though, was a highly pretentious piece of work that read like a self-help book. It spoke about a bunch of things but the sum of the message was basically empty…

What is your relationship with writing? Do any of these statements about Annie Dillard's The Writing Life resonate with your own relationship with writing?

The Writing Life

In this collection of short essays, Annie Dillard—the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and An American Childhood—illuminates the dedication, absurdity, and daring that characterize the existence of a writer. A moving account of Dillard’s own experience, The Writing Life offers deep insight into one of the most mysterious professions (Amazon).
[Original Post October 18, 2014]
What are your thoughts about living a writing life? Leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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