After I read Annie Dillard’s excerpt--once for pleasure and then once again for a free writing assignment--I thought about a writing life that suits me.
It wouldn’t be cleverly crafted legal documents that appear automatically on the computer screen in my well-lit, windowed office. Those arguments are well defended, perfected for delivery, and defy critique. A flock of Canadian geese settling on the lawn outside is regrettably dismissed as decorator blinds sway in circulated air and the screen goes clean. Writing here is easily deleted, always ready for the next letter and its crisp, laser-jettisoned presentation. This, I believe, does well at keeping the light bill paid, but it is not the writing life for me.
At the office I often think about a soft, brown leather pouch of a diary waiting for me at home. Thin leather thongs, like ribbons, are long enough to wrap several times around the cover and hold the writing inside. Opening the pouch is like unrolling Pacific cloth and carefully removing pieces of fine old silver to lay the table at Thanksgiving. I am tempted to tuck it into my case and bring it here.
On winter nights, I open the diary to pages that are the color of wheat. Some nights my pen is too dry, or the light doesn’t suit me, or a pencil lead is not the right shade of gray. I thoughtfully bind the pages together again and place the book on the window sill in my library where I like to see it when I pass. On a summer night, I might choose a new word or perhaps a spent movie ticket or flower petal sketch, to place in the pages. The book waits, like a promise I know I will keep, and I smile.
Still smiling, I look around the library at writing books, writing guides, books by my favorite authors and leftover Christmas cards, all stacked together on the edge of my desk. Then there are the maps unfolded and opened on the carpet near the base of a world globe on its sturdy stand. I stand in front of a wall of shelves deep enough to stack years of National Geographic behind hundreds of books. Most of the books have been removed from their glossy jackets. The rich greens, blues, wines, and browns of the bindings soften my thoughts and please me.
Where the library opens into a large entry hall, I can see through the house to more books in yet another room. They are older, handed down, and closeted behind three sets of mullioned glass panes in a large china cabinet. No china or antique silver—only the best books. I chuckle.
Back in the library, my eyes fix on a spot below the window where scraps of college rule paper still rest next to my textbook. These scraps of paper hold my free writing assignment and notes on Dillard. Last Sunday, in this room, passages came during the day and were laid carefully aside for this night. On this night, I am thrilled with the discovery of them, and my pen is ready.
This, I know now, is the writing life for me.