Monday, August 13, 2007

Working Like Annie Dillard

Roller Coaster Car2

This picture is Sara's roller coaster car invention. I look at it and it makes me feel tired. It makes me feel tired because I do not feel so inventive right now.

I am feeling rather more like Annie Dillard who says, in The Writing Life, " you prepare yourself, all alone, to enter an extraordinary state on an ordinary morning? How to set yourself spinning? Where is an edge— a dangerous edge— and where is the trail to the edge and the strength to climb it?"

Further on, she reveals the secret... "I pointed myself. I walked to the water. I played the hateful recorder, washed dishes, drank coffee, stood on a beach log, watched bird. That was the first part; it could take all morning or all month..."

I realize I've been leaning ever harder towards this secret...

On Saturday, looking to set myself spinning, looking to crank myself up the roller coaster hill so I could come racing down it, I began to work on my writing, like Annie D. I spent the morning on the phone. I did some dishes. I spent the afternoon coming up with 9 themes around which to organize a homeschool club for the year. (I was most pleased with the thought of "bridges" and "The Magic Flute"). I mowed the lawn with a manual mower, which makes a pleasing "whirring" noise and knocks down as much grass as it cuts. By evening, I hadn't penned (keystroked?) a single word towards an article I'm pursuing.

Yes, I had worked like Annie Dillard. Now all I need to do is write like her. Or maybe like the essential, recharged me.

Sara's Roller Coaster Invention photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Blogger jcubsdad said...

Ahh, so much good wisdom for the writers soul. I needed that. I have lots of ambition to write, have written a few things, and then get on myself for not writing more.

I think I hear some coffee brewing, time to get a cup... then I shall begin... begin my Magnum Opus!! :)

2:06 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

I love the photo. A lot.

And The Writing Life is my favoritest of all writing books.

For me, the secret is simple. Camy Tang taught me the phrase "BIC." It stands for Butt in Chair. The more often my butt is in the writing chair, the more I write. The more I write, the more likely I am to write something worth reading.

Blogs and comments have become my new percolation tool, by the way.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

We often think of creativity and innovation as the result of inspiration, rather than perspiration.

Yet, it takes a lot of hard preparation to enter into a mode of creativity.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Real Live Preacher said...

Ah, saint Annie. My writing hero. Read everything she's written except her last thing, the novel.

What I take from her is this: Writing begins with living, because without living you have nothing to say. Some people have an idea that writers somehow know how to knit together sentences that work, and if they could just figure that out, they would be writers.

But Annie Dillard lives. She experiences the world around her deeply, then lets that flow into her writing. It is her mind and her eyes that make her a writer. Getting the right words down is the easier (though still not easy) part.

My two cents.

3:31 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Gyrovague... and what would your Magnum Opus be about, if you could just find the right coffee blend? And, btw, feel free to leave your URL to your blog at the end of your comments. You have a great blog, and I'd love for other people to find their way over.

Mark... Yes, I have certainly used my share of BIC technique. But I think I need FIB right now... face-in-book, or maybe BOB... butt-on-beach. You know?

Every Square... yes, just think of all the dishes I'll have to do and lawns to mow, to get that article started! How do you prepare?

Real Live... She sure does live. One of my favorite moments is when she splits wood, then tells us about it. Hilarious and thought-provoking.

It's true that we all live, we all work, but I do think it takes a special sense of attentiveness to write a book about these mundane things and actually have people line up to read the next book! Like Annie does. Yes, she's great, isn't she?

3:43 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I peel away my callous, unfeeling nature. Connect circumstances. Find parallels. I become aware. Press in to analyze my circumstances and feelings. Soak in where I'm at. Study words. Mull them over. Contrast, compare, re-define them. Move. Focus. Or, I just go down to Krispy Kreme.....

3:46 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

A manual push-mower? (removing baseball cap) You are a Proverbs 31 woman, you know that? I have been trying to refurbish a used one. It has not gone very well.

Are you low on writing inspiration? Have you seen Stranger Than Fiction? In it, author Kay Eiffel reminds me of a train. An old steam engine. (Lots of smoke, and not very efficient.) I just saw it this weekend and heartily give it a thumbs-up!

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, LL. Always an apt word here. I have been doing this kind of not writing all summer. Occasionally I even do the BIC approach and something measly comes out, and then I proceed with all my not writing. I think I will continue my not writing by rereading The Writing Life. Annie Dillard fills me with vision when I read her. And so do you.

6:21 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Kim... I like all your methods. And the Krispy Kreme made me laugh!

Craver... ah, what a gentleman you are. Now, pick up that weed whacker and we can finish this lawn in no time.

Oh, and I actually really like my manual mower. It does a pretty good job except where the grass has grown to over eight inches tall. :)

And about that inspiration. I don't know. It's not like I can't write. I just am having trouble doing the BIC thing, partly because I have this longing to just read, read, read. Partly because I'm still mired in sadness over the loss of that friend. I feel like I just need solace, rest, a tender father to carry me. And the freedom not to have to create when I feel all these things.

Charity... I'm glad you come here and find some refreshment. I certainly find it when you come and share your comments. Yes, the Writing Life is a great place to get inspired. I hope you find inspiration there.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, I like this, and agree with RLP that it's about living. I simply want to communicate something apt to life. But to do that creatively like you or Annie does it, well I guess that's simply according to the gifting from God that we each have. It' important to learn what we can from good writers, but then it's surely important just to be ourselves from God, simple as that may be.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Don't you think writing is a lot like gardening? There are times when things are fertile, popping out of us all around. And we have to weed through the mass of it to find what needs to stay. Then there are those dry spells where our creative lives are still and parched and nothing comes forth.

In the dry times I sometimes find if I mess too much I just end up with a lot of dust. That's when I do what you're wishing to do. Just read. Let the writing go dormant until the rains come and get things growing again. Then again, I have been mostly a hobby writer, which allows me the luxury of stopping in the dry times. Which means I don't know much about what to do when an editor's deadline looms over a dry time.
btw, your writing never seems to flag on this blog. Always something beautiful, something thought-provoking to read.

3:34 PM  
Blogger spaghettipie said...

I was just thinking what AMM pointed out. It seems to me that there are seasons to every part of life, and perhaps this is a season (I don't know for how long) where you just need to rest.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

L.L., you crack me up! I got some Butt-On-Beach time at Galveston this weekend. Mostly, I'm just glad to be done with FEJ (Freelance Editing Jobs) for awhile. Now I can BIC on my own projects.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...


I often say to my daughter (who is loves to write), most of the preparation for writing is in the thinking.

And, thinking is very hard requires reading, thinking, more reading, more thinking, a little writing and back to thinking again...

But who am I to be offering that tidbit to you, the accomplished writer and speaker? ;-)

6:20 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Ted... surely it's a bit of a gift. But it can also be developed a little. (The English teacher in me talking.)

A Musing... yes, like gardening. An ebb and flow. Dormancy and harvest. Dust and dew. Editors? Ah. Well, when I need something for an editor I just grit my teeth and do it. Mostly right now I am feeling the need for rest and freedom, and I can usually pace myself around deadlines to deal with these needs. What nice words at the end of your comment. Thank you.

Spaghetti... I think that my mourning is taking a large part of my energy. Even if it's not always a conscious mourning.

Mark... here's to BOB. And to your SLOB. (Uh, that's just "success looming over brain").

Every Square... of course you are quite right about the thinking! And maybe that's part of the problem. I just don't want to think right now. I am full up with thoughts that are unrelated to the subject I want to pursue and I can't seem to shake out of it. (Nor perhaps should I even try.) Thank you for the compliment, even if it comes with a wink. ;-)

6:44 PM  
Blogger Inihtar said...

LL, phew. . . not having the energy or inclination to do what you've set yourself to do. Sounds all too familiar! Though in my case, it's not writing but learning Japanese. Sigh! I blame the heat!

2:30 AM  
Blogger N. said...

I've been writing a great deal about Dillard lately--mostly Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It's hard to break through the language the way she does--I am not sure where she trolls for the almost forgotten remnants of the language: weft, fleet, scales of eyes...

much of it, I assume, is biblical.

9:16 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

N (Shannon?)... Welcome to Seedlings. I think Dillard is open to experience and she takes the time to see, really see, and hear and taste and touch. Then she writes it all down.

I visited your lovely blog and copied the quote from the top; it is just perfect for an art class I'm doing this week on light.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Joseph Cartwright said...

I am reading The Writing Life right now. It is inspiring me towards the craft in deeper ways. Thanks for your thoughts as well.

5:22 PM  

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