Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Page Always Wins, according to The Writing Life


Approximately half of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life bores me senseless, yet the book isn’t entirely pointless. It is a literary classic, after all.
Here are some things she’s written that I’d like to hold on to, savoring them to maintain the inspiration.
‘When the Danish aristocrat Wilhelm Dinesen shot birds all day… he and his wife had three children under three. The middle one was Karen.’
‘(The writer) must have faith sufficient to impel and renew the work, yet not so much faith he fancies he is writing well when he is not. For writing a first draft requires from the writer a peculiar internal state which ordinary life does not induce.’
‘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. As the work grows, it gets harder to control…You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly afraid to open the door to its room.’
‘The page is jealous and tyrannical; the page is made of time and matter; the page always wins.’

Gratitude for Writing


After a nine-day hiatus from writing the book, I’ve returned to the page, slaying dragons of delay. The tone of the writing disappoints me. The subject is difficult to dig in to because it takes so much work to recall and then to determine which of it will interest readers. Most all of it came out as narrative, and only a little writing appeared in literary non-fiction tropes such as dialogue, though some Hong Kong-specific information actually does situate it in travel writing.
One hour led to two. And tomorrow I’ll know where to start at least.
The experience was tough, like slogging through knee-high water in jeans and high heels. It’s good to have written, though.