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The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

The Writing Life (1989)

by Annie Dillard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,595304,560 (3.85)49
  1. 10
    Stein on writing : a master editor of some of the most successful writers of our century shares his craft techniques and strategies by Sol Stein (mcgilh)
    mcgilh: I use this book over and over again in my writing. It is a wonderful master writing class, chapter by chapter.

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» See also 49 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
I'm not sure how I feel about this book, overall. There were sections that inspired me, sections that discouraged me, and sections that I skimmed. I might have a different outlook on this book if I knew the author, but I've never read anything by Annie Dillard before. I have another of her books on my shelf, so I'll soon find out if this is her real writing style or not. I'm torn on if I'll revisit this book again... I tend to not like books/stories/articles that glorify writing like it's the most heavenly of art forms, and not everyone can do it, etc. (full review: http://www.allisonwrites.com/2012/02/writing-life.html) ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |

A philosophical viewpoint on writing and the lifestyle of writers, essential for anyone interested in writing. ( )
  LJMax | Aug 21, 2015 |
Fast-moving and graceful, this is worth reading for any writer or artist. Dillard's meditations on her own way of life, and on the choices involved with living as a writer, are so insightful as to push readers toward examining their own choices and paths. With her humor and honesty, the book ends up being full of revelations and humor. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Sep 8, 2014 |

This book arrived for me through interlibrary loan today. I was so excited that I read it cover to cover tonight. It's a slim volume, and reading it in one sitting struck me almost as a necessity. Dillard's words grip and hold fast from the first sentence. In this book she pinpoints and expounds on certain universal experiences among writers. But it's the way she shapes the text that is extraordinary. A master of the long form narrative, Dillard deftly weaves literary references and historical anecdotes in with her own poignant and unique tales of the writing life. Her metaphors are warm and natural, seamlessly highlighting her points without overstating their meaning. There is also humor here, a kind of fatalistic wryness born of a life spent engaged in the glorious madness of writing. As with Holy the Firm, the book's short length is no indication of how much content Dillard offers to her readers. My sense of awe has only continued to grow as I glimpse further into the depths of her skill and imagination. Finally, a quote:You write it all, discovering it at the end of the line of words. The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illuminates the path just before its fragile tip. You probe with it, delicate as a worm. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
You know that oh-so expressive word, "meh"? Well, that was kind of my reaction to Annie Dillard's slim volume, THE WRITING LIFE. I didn't find it all that exciting or enlightening. In fact there seemed to me to be a bit of ostentatious navel-gazing; maybe even a bit of intellectual 'showing off.' While there were a few semi-interesting bits here and there, like her descriptions of where she has written - a primitive cabin on an island in Puget Sound, a cinder block room in a college library, a well-equipped 'shed' on Cape Cod, etc. - there are no real revelations here about the writing life per se. Her description of her flight with a geologist-stunt pilot was interesting, and ... Ah, what the hell, maybe I just didn't 'get' what she was trying to do here.

To my mind, William Zinsser's books on writing are more useful, and certainly a lot more interesting. They are: ON WRITING WELL; WRITING ABOUT YOUR LIFE; and WRITING PLACES. Try those books. You'll be getting a lot more bang for your buck.

Sorry, Annie. I loved AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, but this one? Meh. ( )
  TimBazzett | Feb 11, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Annie Dillardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, TaviaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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No one suspects the days to be gods. --- Emerson
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When you write, you lay out a line of words.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060919884, Paperback)

Annie Dillard has spent a lot of time in remote, bare-bones shelters doing something she claims to hate: writing. Slender though it is, The Writing Life richly conveys the torturous, tortuous, and in rare moments, transcendent existence of the writer. Even for Dillard, whose prose is so mellifluous as to seem effortless, the act of writing can seem a Sisyphean task: "When you write," she says, "you lay out a line of words.... Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow or this time next year." Amid moving accounts of her own writing (and life) experiences, Dillard also manages to impart wisdom to other writers, wisdom having to do with passion and commitment and taking the work seriously. "One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place.... Something more will arise for later, something better." And, if that is not enough, "Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients," she says. "That is, after all, the case.... What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?"

This all makes The Writing Life seem a dense, tough read, but that is not the case at all. Dillard is, after all, human, just like the rest of us. During one particularly frantic moment, four cups of coffee and not much writing down, Dillard comes to a realization: "Many fine people were out there living, people whose consciences permitted them to sleep at night despite their not having written a decent sentence that day, or ever." --Jane Steinberg

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:20 -0400)

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With color, irony and sensitivity, Pulitzer prize-winner Annie Dillard illuminates the dedication, absurdity and daring that is the writer's life. As it probes and exposes, examines and analyzes, The Writing Life offers deeper insight into one of the most mysterious of professions.… (more)

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