Into the Book


I like to consider myself a writer. On the good days, that means I write, but mostly I fiddle around and tinker. I had hoped that Writing Life would be the silver bullet, all of a sudden I’d understand how to write, and the heavens would be opened and I’d sign six-figure book deals (this didn’t happen). Annie Dillard did a phenomenal job with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and she’s one of my favorite writers, so I figured I could do little better for a book on writing.

But rather than being a handbook on how to write, The Writing Life is a collection of stories accumulated during the writing of several books. Annie Dillard does not explain how to write books — she explains how to live a life in which you write, all day every day, and try to create with words on a page. There are few techniques here; rather, the book is filled with stories of how it feels to be stuck in a spot in the book (been there) and why the end product is never quite what we’d imagined starting out (felt that).

Mostly, The Writing Life tells you what to expect if you’re going to write books. It teaches you how to see stories with your eyes so that you can transfer them to your medium: the printed page. For me, it stirred a few deep thoughts, reminding me that I really couldn’t give up writing — and that’s what the writing life is. Closing the back page left me wanting to run and work on my writing from years ago. If you’re a writer — or wondering if you ought to keep trying to be a writer — The Writing Life will tell you.

Like any other of her books, Annie Dillard fills this one with many ridiculous stories and illustrations that capture her point. Her books are like a million sparks that fly up from a burning log: filled with many individual, unique stories. And here’s where the similarities to Pilgrim begin. Much like that book, the stories in The Writing Life made me want to follow in Dillard’s footsteps. This, I’d guess, is exactly why the book was written.

I’d recommend The Writing Life if you are looking at being a writer, are a writer, may someday be a writer, are married to a writer — if you’re at all connected to writing, you’ll enjoy the stories and message of this book. And if you’re not sure if you’re cut out to be a writer, give this a read: it’s only 120 pages. Maybe, like me, you’ll find out that you can’t not write.


Published on 20 June, 2015. Last updated on

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