Annie Dillard’s Advice on Keeping a Daily Routine

Whenever great artists talk about their craft, I pay attention. The meta-analyses on why they do what they do (and how) is refreshing because there is rarely a trick. There’s no praying to a special creative god to give them powers or spell they cast on their typewriter. It’s often that they just show up, work, leave, and repeat.

This is why it’s hard to learn about how great writers write, because even they don’t know. To them, they just write. Maybe they assume that it’s just what everyone does, so why bore people with the details?

Sometimes, though, we do get a peek behind the curtain. Such was the case in Annie Dillard’s short and sporadic reflections on writing in her book, “The Writing Life.”

Speaking on the importance of a daily routine, she writes:

”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim…A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order–willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.”

Having a good day is of the utmost importance because good days make a good life:

“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one. But who would not call Pasteur’s life a good one, or Thomas Mann’s?”

Pair this with an analysis on the life of Albert Einstein.


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