You’re welcome! (Or, about that quote I can’t get out of my head…)

Y’all, I just had to share this quote, because it jumped out at me yesterday, and now I can’t get it out of my head.

Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?

This quote is from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.

(From Goodreads)

I read it yesterday while I was procrastinating some housecleaning, and I did not expect it to stick with me like this. But here I am, several hours later, still thinking about it. And now, perhaps you are, too.

So, sorry about that. Or not sorry? I’m not sure. It’s good advice to share, I think. So maybe, then, you’re welcome!

At any rate, what’s your favorite bit of writing wisdom? Feel free to share!

15 thoughts on “You’re welcome! (Or, about that quote I can’t get out of my head…)

  1. That is very interesting, Katie. I think the writing advice most useful to me has been 1) just write, what you feel or what you think; 2) edit until you cannot think of anything else to change. I think that has for the most part served me well, in terms of both writing for pleasure (poems, short stories, blogs), and writing for academic publishing. I learned much about writing from a former dean when I once commented about loving to read what he wrote. He is the once who said “I just re-write it until I cannot think of anything else to change.” It is probably why when I write, I read it over and over, both to myself, and out loud, until I cannot think of any other way to say what I want to say. Reading your writing out loud helps you catch things with your ear that your brain would “fix” for you.

    As for this quote, while I get the intent, I am more inclined to think “write to whom you are speaking” since our listening is different. The one thing I think matters most is “what helps you do your best work?” If this is it, then it works. (Oh, and have good editors all along the way and get feedback!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I love that! Editing is easily my least favorite part of writing, but that’s a really helpful way to think about it. I’m also a big fan of reading out loud. I always find that when I skip that step, I miss things.

      I think what really got me about the quote (and I mentioned this in another comment), is that it reminds me of the line from Hamilton (the musical): “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” That one stood out to me, too, and I think it’s because I have a bad habit of getting lazy and putting things off. I also tend to second guess myself and dither because I’m uncertain. I think considering who you’re writing for, who will be listening and how they listen, is great advice, too, especially for that particular issue.

      I feel like I’ve gotten such great comments on this post! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like this quote. It is very thought provoking. I also think about expanding this to not just write like it may be your last day, but to live as if this may be your last day. Not in the morbid sense. In the sense that are you doing today what fulfills, inspires, heals, helps, and contributes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I love that! And I think about it often, too. It’s easy to be lazy, but then I remember that what I do in a day is really what I’m doing with me life, and I want my life to be full and happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating quote, Katie.
    I would say that it is impossible to generalise about people who are terminally ill so it it very difficult to imagine writing with such an audience in mind or indeed to write as if one were pretty much on one’s last legs.
    I see your point re motivation and think that is very well made but the dying bit doesn’t do it for me, anyway, especially from my experience with people who were terminally ill. All of them would have wanted something different.

    In terms of writing wisdom, I am a great fan of Roddy Doyle who writes about what he knows and stresses the huge importance of editing – ensuring that every single word is both needed and the best choice.

    Liked by 1 person

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