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Observation on Annie Dillard's Writing Advice, Etc.

I frequently listen to a podcast called THE HABIT. Its host is Jonathan Rogers, who for the most part interviews writers with a Christian focus. He is a better interviewing than I, and he runs a community of writers. I recommend him. I do have to say that the podcast makes me feel very shallow as a writer. 

One reason is that Jonathan Rogers has a signature question, Who are the writers that make you want to write. If I ever land on his program (a dream), I will need an answer to that one, and right now I don't have one. Sure, there are writers I like, lots of them, but reading them doesn't send me to my computer to get cracking. They are more likely to make me think, you've got no business doing this writing gig. 

Actually, bad or mediocre writers motivate me more although I am not exactly proud of that. And the fact that what I want to write doesn't seem to exist, at least to my knowledge. 

Many of the writers say "Annie Dillard" or "Wendell Berry." Mr. Berry doesn't really float my boat, but I'll try him again sometime. I read a novel about tobacco farmers. Hohum for me. Terry Kay is big for Georgians, and is good. I met him once. I like Annie's audaciousness, especially in the link above, and her close observations. I like Marilynne Robinson for not being ashamed of her theology, and her ability to connect human feeling with the physical world. Then there are older writers, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Cervantes. But that sounds pretentious (not sure why--didn't they lay the foundation). Susan Howatch, Zadie Smith, Percival Everette, Alice Walker, Eudora (I shook her hand once!). Many others, I suppose. I don't get to read contemporary fiction as much as I like, and a lot of it is either too profane or self-indulgent. 

But like I say, they don't necessarily motivate me to write, just to read more. 

The link above is to an article that is mostly clips or quotes from various Annie Dillard articles or articles about her as a writing teacher. It's worth a read. She is pretty absolute about some of it, and of course gives the typical advice about verbs and adverbs, in her own way.

One I liked, and needed, was 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 in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."

As I age and approach 70, still with all my wits about me but aware that the present states are not a promise of permanence in the future, I need to take that advice to heart, and now. I have about ten novels more in me, and they shouldn't wait, at least not past this summer, when I have a little more time to myself.

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