Finding the Art in Everything

14 June, 2010

A is for Annie Dillard

If you spend any time at all in conversation with me, guaranteed I reference this author. It's no secret that I really like Dillard - her voice resonates in me like it's coming from my own chest. She starts the conversation between her readers and their everyday worlds, and it continues long after the reader closes the book.

I finally finished Pilgrim at Tinker Creek this spring, about a year after I started it. Its a series of illuminating personal essays--meandering responses to nature and the rest of Dillard's solitary, literary world. It's image-saturated prose that's carried by a poetic cadence toward transcendence, turning and directing itself like flowing water. Her writing has the honesty and power of something that is both fully human and fully vision. It's the most truthful writing I've ever read.

And I love the truth.

God, I want to write like that.

Dillard says "Poets read poetry; novelists read novels." Dillard wrote my favorite two pages of anything I've ever read. Reading her changes the way I see--even breathe. If a writer often defines herself by what she reads, what does that make me? Nothing, because I haven't been writing. Writers write, but I haven't been because I've been too self-conscious about lack of talent and poor craft. Dillard explains this, " You try, you try every time to reproduce the vision- to let your light so shine before men. But you can only come a long with a bushel and hide it."

If that's the case, why bother?

She answers, "Because acting is better than being here in mere opacity."

Really, the only people who read my writing are family and friends--and there's a paradox there. They're the hardest to write for - they're people to whom I feel compelled to prove something. There's a fear that I can't write well enough to earn their approval and respect. But this kind of concern misses the point entirely.

To whom did Jesus do most of His teaching? His closest friends and family--the disciples. More of Christ's conversation and lessons were directed toward the people who knew Him best. He didn't aim for fame or notoriety, or even polished delivery. He aimed to save his own people--to serve His fathers Vision.

Do I actually think the clumsiness (at best) of my writing is worse than not serving the Father's vision with the capabilities He bestowed on me?

Among many, many things, Dillard reminded me that serving the vision is more about trusting Power is made perfect in weakness than any other measurement of success.

God did not give us "a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

A is for Annie Dillard, but there is a great chance she'll show up in other letters, too. Just watch.

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