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Writing Quips and Tips From Annie Dillard

Quips and Tips for Successful Writers regularly features “Writing Quips and Tips From Successful Published Author X.” Annie Dillard is here now; Truman Capote was featured last time. 

Here’s why she created her own website, Annie Dillard:

“I’ve posted this web-page in defense; a crook bought the name and printed dirty pictures, then offered to sell it to me. I bit. In the course of that I learned the web is full of misinformation. This is a corrective.”

Dillard is a best-selling author who has written over a dozen books (such as Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, An American Childhood, and Teaching a Stone to Talk). She’s also edited magazines and books, written magazine articles, and contributed to anthologies. For more writing advice from Annie Dillard, click on The Writing Life. And, read on for writing quips and tips from Annie Dillard…

Writing Quips and Tips From Annie Dillard

Quip: “I’ve never promoted myself or my books, but I used to give two public readings a year,” writes Dillard on her website. “Now I can no longer travel, can’t meet with strangers, can’t sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can’t write by request, and can’t answer letters. I’ve got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me.”

  • Writing Tip: Not all successful writers needed to promote themselves! Sometimes writers are lucky and blessed enough to just be able to write…but I suspect those are few and far between. I envy Dillard’s freedom and ability to set her boundaries: she doesn’t travel, doesn’t meet strangers, doesn’t sign books, and she doesn’t have to explain herself.

Quip: “I work mornings only. I go out to lunch. Afternoons I play with the baby, walk with my husband, or shovel mail.”

  • Writing Tip: I suspect this Dillard quote was from the days of yore, but the takeaway is timeless: successful writers create schedules and stick to them like white on rice (successful writers are disciplined). The more writing becomes a routine in your life, the more you’ll accomplish and produce. And, the more you write, the better you’ll get!

Quip: “The novel is a game or joke shared between author and reader.”

  • Writing Tip: Successful writers write directly to their readers, and create a sense of connection and familiarity. Maybe Dillard didn’t need to promote her books or articles because of the bond she forged with readers – people she didn’t even know. When you’re writing, think of your words as a bridge to your reader’s life. You are creating something real, fellow scribes, whether it’s a game, joke, or prayer.

Quip: “Could Faulkner find a publisher now?”

  • Writing Tip: Timing is everything when it comes to publishing articles and books…and timing isn’t something writers can control. However, successful writers can get and stay on the ball, which means seeing opportunities and open doors, taking risks, and trying new things. Successful writers learn about networking, finding ideas to write about, and treating writing like a business (not a hobby! Unless of course writing is a hobby).

Quip: “Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

  • Writing Tip: This is a scary quote about writing and life because we so often procrastinate. We say we’ll take this job to tide us over financially, or we’ll go on the trip of our dreams sometime in the future, or we’ll write that book tomorrow…and then we wake up and we’re 85 years old and we don’t have the stamina to do what we once dreamed of. I think this is Dillard’s most important quote about life and writing.

These writing quips from Annie Dillard are from W.O.W. Writers on Writing, edited by Jon Winokur –   he also edited Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights. Click the book cover for more info.

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If you have any thoughts or questions on these writing quips and tips from Dillard, I welcome you below!

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4 thoughts on “Writing Quips and Tips From Annie Dillard”

  1. Welcome to Quips & Tips, George…I hope to see you around more!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..The Best Ways to Invest in Your Writing Career =-.

  2. I’m reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and will soon have a Writing Quips & Tips from Anne Lamott post…

    Good luck fighting that procrastination BEAST, George! I think most writers struggle with him.

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..A Top 10 Writing Blog – Quips and Tips for Successful Writers =-.

  3. Hi Laurie,

    Scary how right on the money these quips and tips are. I like the whole aspect of being scheduled and disciplined to have a writing time and then sticking to it. You hear it all the time and it is true – writers write.

    I stuggle with a procrastination ghost. They win a lot, but not always. One day, I’ll have him beaten down enough that he won’t dare show his face.

    .-= George Angus´s last blog post ..Buzzing Around the New Blog of the Week =-.