Tagged Inspiration

Annie Dillard On Writing and Attention

I love this passage from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard on the care and attention the prose we write needs to remain malleable to the imagination and within the writer’s control:

I do not write a book so much as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.

This tender relationship can change in a twinkling. If you skip a visit or two, a work in progress will turn on you.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it.

I’ve experienced this with my own writing. Careful attention, a daily communing with a work is vital. The slightest ambivalence in the act of creating can be the catalyst for a potential death spiral. I see it as the energetics of creation dissipating like water out of a leaky boat.

Or, perhaps, the muse departs, offended by our inattention? If we don’t see the urgency in creating, why should they?

On the other hand, much like meditation, daily practice, even if unproductive, bears the greatest fruit. It’s as if by simply showing up at the altar of creativity, one wills the imagination into action. This doesn’t mean the work writes itself. But, it’s been my experience that when the doors open, the words come.