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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

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Quotes from Dillard's The Writing Life


At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then--and only then--it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something moving through the air and headed your way. It is a parcel bound in ribbons and bows; it has two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. --Annie Dillard, The Writing Life



Here is a fairly sober version of what happens in the small room between the writer and the work itself.

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First you shape the vision of what the projected work of art will be.

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It is a vision of the work, not of the world. It is a glowing thing, a blurred thing of beauty.

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You know that if you proceed you will change things and learn things, that the form will grow under your hands and develop new and rich lights. But that change will not alter the vision or its deep structures; it will only enrich it. You know that, and you are right.

But you re wrong if you think that in the actual writing,... you are filling in the vision. You cannot fill in the vision. you cannot even bring the vision to light. You are wrong if you think that you can in any way take the vision and tame it to the page. The page is jealous and tyrannical; the page is made of time and matter; the page always wins. The vision is not so much destroyed, exactly, as it is, by the time you have finished, forgotten. It has been replaced by this changeling, this bastard, this opaque lightless chunky ruinous work.

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Words lead to other words and down the garden path... You can fly--you can fly higher than you thought possible--but you can never get off the page. After every passage another passage follows, more sentences, more everything on drearily down.

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And so you continue the work, and finish it.

***

the work is not the vision itself, certainly. It is not the vision filled in, as if it had been a coloring book. It is not the vision reproduced... It is rather a simulacrum and a replacement. It is a golem. You try--you try every time--to reproduce the vision, to let your light so shine before men. But you can only come along with your bushel and hide it.

--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

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