What Does Living The Writing Life Really Mean?
I just finished reading The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Although the book is classified as a writing guide, to me it reads more like a memoir about Dillard’s life as a writer. Reading The Writing Life got me thinking a lot about my own life as a writer, both what I love about it and what I feel is lacking.
Dillard makes the point that writers often fixate on their childhoods in their work because that was in only time in their lives they actually lived. Writers spend so much of their time at their desks, creating and recreating worlds on the page, that they miss out on a lot of those experiences that non-writers have. This is, of course, assuming a person writes full-time, which is a rare thing these days and considered to be a luxury.
Because I’m in grad school right now, writing is pretty much my entire life. That’s why it’s hard for me to blog about much else. I spend so much time living in the past, trying to make art out of my life, that sometimes I worry that I’m not actually living it anymore.
In some ways, I feel like I never have been fully present in my life. This memoir I’m writing has been in the back of my mind since I was a kid. I’ve lived very consciously and have been recording my experiences in journals since I was 11 years old. Sometimes I wonder if I made different decisions and took more risks because I wanted to be able to have something to write about later.
I can’t say why writing is so central to my life or why sometimes I feel like I live my life just so I can write about it later. I can’t explain why the memoir I’m writing means so much to me or why it’s been my dream to publish it since I was 11. But I worry that spending so much time living in the past is keeping me from experiencing the moment.
I feel lucky to have this chance to focus on writing for a couple of years. But I don’t want my life outside of writing to stop while I work on this memoir about my past. This is something Dillard talks about struggling with in The Writing Life, and she has no real answers for me. Living the writing life is still living life, and I can’t forget that these experiences I’m having right now matter too. Even if we live to write, we still have to live first and foremost. So I guess that’s what living the writing life means to me. It’s a struggle to balance the past and the present, the page and the world.