Quotations From ANNIE DILLARD


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  • Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain. But if we describe a word to compass these things, a world that is a long, brute game, then we bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and delight, the canary that sings on the skull.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. essayist and autobiographer. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 1 (1974).

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  • People love pretty much the same things best. A writer looking for subject inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author. The Writing Life, ch. 5 (1989).

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  • Write about winter in the summer. Describe Norway as Ibsen did, from a desk in Italy; describe Dublin as James Joyce did, from a desk in Paris. Willa Cather wrote her prairie novels in New York City; Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in Hartford, Connecticut. Recently, scholars learned that Walt Whitman rarely left his room.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author. The Writing Life, ch. 5 (1989).

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  • I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author. The Writing Life, ch. 3 (1989).

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  • No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing.... The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author, poet. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 7 (1974).

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  • Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author. The Writing Life, ch. 1 (1989). On the nature of a writer's work.

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  • The writer studies literature, not the world. ...He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author. The Writing Life, ch. 5 (1989).

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  • 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. 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.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author. The Writing Life, ch. 5 (1989).

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  • How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author. The Writing Life, ch. 2 (1989).

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  • The painter ... does not fit the paints to the world. He most certainly does not fit the world to himself. He fits himself to the paint. The self is the servant who bears the paintbox and its inherited contents.
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author. The Writing Life, ch. 5 (1989). Using painting as an exemplar of all creative endeavors.

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