Dillard on keeping company with a piece of paper

“It should surprise no one that the life of the writer—such as it is—is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world.  This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood.  A writer’s childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience. Writers read literary biography, and surround themselves with other writers, deliberately to enforce in themselves the ludicrous notion that a reasonable option for occupying yourself on the planet until your life span plays itself out is sitting in a small room for the duration, in the company of pieces of paper.”
Annie Dillard

Dillard on where to write

“Write about winter in the summer.  Describe Norway as Ibsen did, from a desk in Italy; describe Dublin as James Joyce did, from a desk in Paris.  Willa Cather wrote her prairie novels in New York City; Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in Hartford, Connecticut.  Recently, scholars learned that Walt Whitman rarely left his room.”
Annie Dillard

Sensory deprivation

“It should surprise no one that the life of the writer—such as it is—is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world.  This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood.  A writer’s childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience. Writers read literary biography, and surround themselves with other writers, deliberately to enforce in themselves the ludicrous notion that a reasonable option for occupying yourself on the planet until your life span plays itself out is sitting in a small room for the duration, in the company of pieces of paper.”
Annie Dillard

The wider view

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.”
Annie Dillard.

On a work-in-progress

“A work in progress…reverts to a wild state overnight. it is barely domesticated…it is a lion you cage in your study…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 its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting ‘simba!'”
Annie Dillard