It’s as romantic to read now as it was years ago. But now I have decades of experience behind me as a writer, and all I can think about are the things that don’t seem to be a part of Dillard’s writing life: any mention of children, money, a bill-paying job, rejection, book promotion, readings, events, writing articles to provide “content” to get your book noticed, social media, working with agents and editors, asking for blurbs, writing blurbs, maintaining a website, responding to interviews, getting grants, going to conferences, applying to be writer in residence, and oh what about reviews and book sales and, and, and…
I've learned other facts about her life, especially when she was writing PILGRIM... and shit, Thoreau ate at his parents house all the time. And as far as I know, never did his own laundry.
"if I don’t write something today, I’ll burst."
this line stuck with me. like literally it's a risk not worth taking no matter how tough it appears to write something.
amazing piece right here
Not really on-topic, but from your picture description, I’m curious about your art journal practice!
I think she described a heavily edited version of her writing life. Not dissimilar to what I see on the internet – especially Instagram and YouTube – today. She must have had to contend with bills, childcare, and such. Or I'm wrong and she really did live such a romantic writerly life. It makes me wonder is it more difficult today to be a writer, artist, musician, etc, than it was in the past? My instinct (and artists biographies) says no, it's always been hard, but the recounting of it seems to soften with time.
You are so right. My writing life happens in stolen moments too!
What is a writer's life today but stolen moments? Once, I rented a carrel at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis to finish a book-length poetry manuscript and spent most of my designated time staring at the wall. Later, I wrote a 134-page company history for a client on a flimsy tray table while watching MSNBC. Attention and inspiration are slippery gifts, and often difficult to experience together.
love this post Kelcey!!
Are we the same person?? I am working on a comic where Annie Dillard features prominently! HUGE influence on my work. I love that book. She's very very private and though she writes about her observational life constantly, she keeps her life life obscured. That being said, her daughter shows up in a couple of essays--one in Teaching a Stone to Talk. It's beautiful.
This essay is beautiful too!
I wanted to comment in a more complete form. I know Dillard was living with someone at the time she was writing Prigrim at Tinker Creek (which is fine). That is completely omitted in the text. I revered that book, still do. I'd never read anything so powerfully eloquent and vivid before. So, is the illusion of her immense solitude an aspect of the book's aesthetic, its focus? Never at all intending to represent her then-reality? If, IF she had shared her living situation with the reader, would it have diminished the text's power? And I can't help reporting the small whisper in the back of my mind: would it have connected the book to her gender and been a distraction? So: does it come down to: what was Dillard's core intention? Ha--should she have included a disclaimer in the appendix: "In case I have given the impression of living as a hermit..." So, then, as a woman and writer, do I need to include my life circumstances as part of my essays? Or not? I acknowledge those have been omitted by other writers (in the past mostly) bending to social conventions... Keats didn't mention what drugs he was using while he was writing his poems, yet those are now acknowledged as historical fact. Does it increase or diminish appreciation? sorry, sorry, I am going on too much. I so admire Dilliard's writing. Maybe I was naive (gee ya think?), but It was a surprise to learn she had pretty much a real life life.
Yes to all of this! That kind of idealized version of the writing life probably does more damage than a hundred rejections. You think, why is MY writing life so hard? What am I doing wrong? That said, it's a lovely book. And it helps if you don't read it when you're just beginning but when you've gotten to know some writers whose lives are nothing like hers.
love the unfinished piece. I agree I only work late at night, really early in the morning. any crumbs of time I can get.