Spend it all, counsels Annie Dillard

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a Brain Pickings blog post about Annie Dillard…

Annie Dillard is an American author, best known for her narrative prose in both fiction and non-fiction. She has published works of poetry, essays, prose, and literary criticism, as well as two novels and one memoir. Her 1974 book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. And her most recent book, The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old & New, is the focus of a recent post on the blog known as Brain Pickings.

This post zeros in on Dillard’s essay titled “A Writer in the World,” originally published in her 1989 book The Writing Life, and also included in Abundance. In it, she shares her thoughts on what it takes to be a writer and why such a person must hold nothing back. She writes:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Don’t hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The very 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.

I like the way she completes her thought with these words:

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.

Wise advice from a celebrated writer.