Have you met Annie Dillard?
Probably not in person, but met her, as in, on the page.
She’s one of the most unusual writers you’ll ever read. Her words leap to the surface and surprise you with their compact moving parts, their stunning clarity, how they make magic of everyday things.
I found this piece on her in the Times from 2016, featuring three short unusual and early essays, and the writer, Sam Anderson, calls out this line of Dillard’s that serves as an artistic manifesto, one that would serve us well to remember:
‘‘Possible books abound; I’d rather write an impossible page.’’
I love this because it reminds me that there are always things we could do: businesses we could start, books we could write.
But what if we aimed…smaller? What if made one really good thing? Because doing one thing, writing even one page, can take everything you’ve got and can show you what you’re capable of.
Look, anyone can talk about all the things we could do, should do, would do if, if, if.
But rather than make big plans, why not start here? Why not start with one small thing, done well?
- Rather than sit down to write The Book, sit down to write A Scene.
- Rather than sit down to start up a business, write a list of ways you could help someone with their biggest problem.
- Rather than wait to be moved BY inspiration, be inspired by the work you’ve started.
Want a prompt to get you going? Here’s one:
Write about a time you waited. Waited…for a person. Waited tables. Waited around. Waited too long. Write about what it was like to wait, where you were, what it felt like to be there. Set the timer for 15 minutes. Write.
You never know what will come out of it. Go ahead. Write your own impossible page.
P.S. Like writing to prompts? I’ve got a whole batch of them. Check out 30 Days on the Page, a series of audio sessions you can do anywhere. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just hit play.