The level of my patience sometimes follows the phases of the moon. I wax and wane between “my time will come” to “what if I miss it?”
A recent post of mine led to a nice discussion and mention of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. And, in picking up her book today (during a quiet half hour), I read two quotes from the first chapter that struck a chord with me. Annie Dillard’s words reminded me that a writer must not only be patient with the work, but also indifferent to it.
On the subject of time:
“I takes years to write a book – between two and ten years. Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant.”
“Out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, perhaps twenty people can write a book in a year. Some people lift cars, too. Some people enter week-long sled-dog races, go over Niagara Falls in barrels, fly planes through the Arc de Triomphe. Some people feel no pain in childbirth. Some people eat cars. There is no call to take human extremes as norms” (p. 13-14).
On the writer’s feeling about his or her work:
“There is neither a proportional relationship, nor an inverse one, between a writer’s estimation of a work in progress and its actual quality. The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged” (p. 15).
I struggle with both the panic that a story not published soon will be a story out of date and the anxiety of whether or not what I write is good — or, good enough. I love reading the thoughts of other writers who have gone before me, and finding truth and insight in their words, especially as I enter into a new year with new writing aspirations.
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1989), p. 13-15.