• Kendra Bonnett
  • Writing Video #2: Celebrate Your Writing Journey to Its Destination Like Annie Dillard
Writing Video #2: Celebrate Your Writing Journey to Its Destination Like Annie Dillard
Written by
Kendra Bonnett
June 2012
Written by
Kendra Bonnett
June 2012

Kendra Bonnett, She Writes Guest Editor and Co-Founder of Women's Memoirs

I look at my slightly yellowed, dog-eared, highlighted, underlined and Post-it note-laiden copy of The Writing Life, and I say, "Kendra, you certainly got your money's worth out of this book."

And I have. For it was after first reading Annie Dillard's little book--little in length only--that I finally understood the idea that writing is a journey. In truth, it's a journey on many levels. Yesterday, I used Ray Bradbury to emphasize the lifelong journey of the writer and the role practice plays in our becoming the writers we dream of being.

Today, I call on Dillard to stress that each story, book or poem we write is a journey in itself. And for that reason, don't be concerned if you grow and mature in the process of writing a piece. Don't bemoan that by the time you reach the editing phase you feel the need to throw out and/or rewrite half of what you created only a short time before.

Don't bemoan? Heck, Dillard would tell you to celebrate. Celebrate that you are that much stronger of a writer. That your ideas have grown and taken root. They are more solid, now. They will stand the scrutiny of the reader.

Here's Dillard's reminder to you:

"Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back."

Tossing parts or most of our work and leaving it behind as we move forward is not easy. Dillard realizes this, too, which is why she spends so much of the book building on this idea. It's to give you the courage to grow as a writer and to use every page and paragraph of your writing as the stepping stones on your journey of growth.

So edit ruthlessly. Cut lose the weak and weary. And celebrate your continuing growth and the pleasure your readers will find in the strong words you bring forth.

If you want to learn how to you can make editing your words less painful, click to find out about editing your pre-writing.

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  • Kendra Bonnett

    Lara, sorry about the traumatic experience you've been going through, but yes it is a part of the process. If you move further down the road as a writer, generally, then it's worth it. I'm reminded of the Tom Hanks lines in A League of Their Own: (paraphrased) It's not supposed to be easy. If it was everyone would do it. My suggestion is that you follow the link at the bottom of the blog over to my thoughts on Women's Memoirs. Because I think that there is a way to work through a story in what Matilda and I call pre-writing. It will help you do a lot of your assessment up front. This way you'll make your decision to toss or go ahead and eliminate much of this trauma. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

  • Lara Sterling

    Ironically, I've been thinking about just this idea in the past couple of days. I've been working on a novella that was born out of a short story I rewrote many times, and I am now thinking of tossing the whole thing. I'm not sure the story was ever supposed to live beyond the short story form I first wrote it in, and I am now worried about sticking with a whole novella for six months or more, if the story is, well, too depressing to begin with. I've been getting angry at myself during the past couple of days about a lot of stories I've written in the past year, which I've just had to totally rewrite, and how it all seems like such a waste that I've been writing all these years and still a lot of what I write is a big pile of you-know-what. But I guess that's just part of the process, or "the journey", if you will. I suppose it's better to throw away what doesn't work and just rewrite, because I want the good writing to be that which I ultimately stand by.