The wild book in progress

This is from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. It’s my go-to book when writing becomes thorny. Here’s where I’m at now. She says it so well.


I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better

This tender relationship can change in a tinkling. If you skip a visit or two, a work in progress will turn on you.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. AS the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter in its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, “Simba!”


I highly recommend that you read this book. That you read it often or open it and read a bit here and there whenever you need a little inspiration.

One Comment

  • Kbritain

    I love that first paragraph. Stories are living things and sometimes as slippery as serpents.

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