Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Moment with Annie Dillard

Who will teach me to write? A reader wanted to know.

The page, the page, the eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time's scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life's strength: that page which will teach you to write.

There is another way of saying this. Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block.

-Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (Harper Perennial, 1989) pp. 58-59.


Project X Update: I am well into chapter 2. My plan was to write a "chapter" a month, so I am bit ahead of myself, but I'm sure things will slow down. I have a general idea of where the plot is going, but I am keeping things loose enough to allow for surprise. Because the novel is set in actual time and place, and involves fairly well-known historical events, the plot seems relatively simple to manage. My plan has been to write scene-by-scene, never overdrivng my headlights. I write until I don't know precisely what is coming next, then I stop until the next idea comes to me.

So far, so good.

I am going to write five or six chapters, then outline the balance of the manuscript. Rewrite the first five chapters and send the manuscript off to an agent.

"I am guided by a signal in the heavens."

Onward, my compadres, aiming always for the chopping block.


Blogger Margaret said...

Love the Dillard quote.

10:12 PM  
Blogger The Weaver of Grass said...

Aim for the chopping block needs to be writ large on my study wall, Greg, alongside Keep it Simple.

11:44 AM  
Blogger tm said...

I can never get the chopping block metaphor. Any suggestions?

11:36 AM  

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