Annie Dillard

A balanced, mindful approach to life might be the most rewarding

This article discusses the philosophy of presence over productivity, as expressed by Annie Dillard in her book “The Writing Life.” Dillard posits that how we spend our days reflects how we spend our lives. She emphasizes the importance of a schedule, describing it as a lifeboat amidst the chaos of time. She further elaborates on this existential tension between presence and productivity by juxtaposing the daily routines of different historical figures.

One example is a Danish aristocrat who reveled in his daily hunting, socializing, and relaxing rituals. In contrast, Wallace Stevens, a prolific poet, and Jack London, a writer, followed disciplined routines to maintain their productivity. Stevens spent his days walking, reading, and working with little time for leisure, while London claimed to write for 20 hours a day, demonstrating a more extreme self-discipline.

Dillard asserts that a life filled with sensory experiences alone is not enough; it is a life of the spirit that requires less and brings more fulfillment. To illustrate, she contrasts the perception of a day spent reading as wasted, but a life spent reading as well-lived.

“Writing Life” is on my reading list. Support an independent bookseller.

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