Annie Dillard quotes

  • How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Life #Wisdom #Time

  • A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. 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

    #Doors #Progress #One Day

  • The dedicated life is worth living. You must give with your whole heart.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Love #Life #Romantic

  • I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Inspiring #Bells #Moments

  • She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Book #Air #Breathe

  • Like any child, I slid into myself perfectly fitted, as a diver meets her reflection in a pool. Her fingertips enter the fingertips on the water, her wrists slide up her arms. The diver wraps herself in her reflection wholly, sealing it at the toes, and wears it as she climbs rising from the pool, and ever after.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Children #Reflection #Water

  • There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Inspirational #Good Life #Good Day

  • You can't test courage cautiously.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Courage #Insperational #Bravery

  • Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Giving #Ashes #Safe

  • Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Reading #Mystery

  • Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Puff #Spirit #Sail

  • You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Stars #Dark #Perspective

  • The secret is not to write about what you love best, but about what you, alone, love at all.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Writing #Secret

  • Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Rest In Peace #Mystery #Life Is

  • The way we live our days, is the way we live our lives.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Life #Way

  • The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Beach #Ocean #Sea

  • A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Time #Hands #Schedules

  • Crystals grew inside rock like arithmetic flowers. They lengthened and spread, added plane to plane in an awed and perfect obedience to an absolute geometry that even stones - maybe only the stones - understood.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Fear #Flower #Rocks

  • There is always the temptation in life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for years on end. It is all so self conscience, so apparently moral...But I won't have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous...more extravagant and bright. We are...raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Journey #Self #Years

  • I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as a dying friend. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Book #Writing #Hands

  • He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, for that is what he will know.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Writing #Careful

  • Last forever!' Who hasn't prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Inspiring #Prayer #Forever

  • As soon as beauty is sought not from religion and love, but for pleasure, it degrades the seeker.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Love #Beauty #Religion

  • Buddhism notes that it is always a mistake to think your soul can go it alone.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Mistake #Buddhism #Thinking

  • The reader's ear must adjust down from loud life to the subtle, imaginary sounds of the written word. An ordinary reader picking up a book can't yet hear a thing; it will take half an hour to pick up the writing's modulations, its ups and downs and louds and softs.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Book #Writing #Sound

  • I cannot imagine a sorrier pursuit than struggling for years to write a book that attempts to appeal to people who do not read in the first place.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Struggle #Book #Writing

  • The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny? But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Hands #Simplicity #Healthy

  • Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Writing #Dying #Patient

  • I alternate between thinking of the planet as home - dear and familiar stone hearth and garden - and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Home #Garden #Thinking

  • Make connections; let rip; and dance where you can.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Rip #Connections

  • She is nine, beloved, as open-faced as the sky and as self-contained. I have watched her grow. As recently as three or four years ago, she had a young child's perfectly shallow receptiveness; she fitted into the world of time, it fitted into her, as thoughtlessly as sky fits its edges, or a river its banks. But as she has grown, her smile has widened with a touch of fear and her glance has taken on depth. Now she is aware of some of the losses you incur by being here--the extortionary rent you have to pay as long as you stay.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Children #Taken #Loss

  • Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Gears #Belief #Desks

  • Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Reading #Inspire #Mind

  • Divinity is not playful. The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensibl e earnest. By a power that is unfathomably secret, and holy, and fleet. There is nothing to be done about it, but ignore it, or see.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Secret #Divinity #Done

  • There is a muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Spiritual #Clouds #Air

  • We are most deeply asleep at the switch when we fancy we control any switches at all.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Fancy

  • Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Memories #Work #Writing

  • We are here on the planet only once, and might as well get a feel for the place.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Might #Planets #Wells

  • According to Inuit culture in Greenland, a person possesses six or seven souls. The souls take the form of tiny people scattered throughout the body.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #People #Soul #Inuit

  • I break up through the skin of awareness a thousand times a day, as dolphins burst through seas, and dive again, and rise, and dive.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Sea #Skins #Dolphins

  • You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then-and only then-it is handed to you.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Heart #Brain #Break

  • Experiencing the present purely is being empty and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Time #Men #Grace

  • Take a quick dip, relax with a schnapps and a sandwich, stretch out, have a smoke, take a nap or just rest, and then sit around and chat until three. Then I hunt some more until sundown, bathe again, put on white tie and tails to keep up appearances, eat a huge dinner, smoke a cigar and sleep like a log until the sun comes up again to redden the eastern sky. This is living…. Could it be more perfect?
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Sleep #Naps #Sky

  • The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Made #Jest #Earnest

  • Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? Because it is up to you. There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Inspirational #Voice #Giving

  • Art is like an ill-trained Labrador retriever that drags you out into traffic.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Art #Labradors #Traffic

  • At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Writing #Grace #Looks

  • We are here to abet creation and to witness to it, to notice each other's beautiful face and complex nature so that creation need not play to an empty house.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Beautiful #Play #House

  • There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading -- that is a good life.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Sweet #Good Life #Reading

  • Caring passionately about something isn't against nature, and it isn't against human nature. It's what we're here to do.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Caring #Human Nature #Humans

  • Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?
    -- Annie Dillard

    #People #Church #Cheerful

  • We live in all we seek.
    -- Annie Dillard

  • Nothing moves a woman so deeply as the boyhood of the man she loves.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Moving #Men #Boyhood

  • The sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain. This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Mean #Animal #Interesting

  • An Inuit hunter asked the local missionary priest: If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell? No, said the priest, not if you did not know. Then why, asked the Inuit earnestly, did you tell me?
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Religion #Inuit #Missionary

  • We are here to witness the creation and to abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Beautiful #Beach #Our Generation

  • The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Greed #Spirit

  • How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Motivational #Hands #Order

  • I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you can rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Space #Light #Wind

  • Write about winter in the summer.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Summer #Writing #Winter

  • I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Beautiful #Air #Tree

  • The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Thinking #Grace #Trying

  • Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation's short time falling away as fast as rivers drop through air, and feeling it hit.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Fall #Rivers #Knowing

  • 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

    #Tunnels #Views #Darkness

  • Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Block #Past #Woods

  • There is neither a proportional relationship, nor an inverse one, between a writer’s estimation of a work in progress & its actual quality. The feeling that the work is magnificent, & the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Feelings #Quality #Progress

  • I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Life #Positive #Thinking

  • I would like to learn, or remember, how to live.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Education #Remember

  • The real and proper question is: why is it beautiful?
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Beautiful #Real

  • You can't test courage cautiously, so I ran hard and waved my arms hard, happy.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Arms #Tests #Ran

  • I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Light #Trying #Causes

  • What have we been doing all these centuries but trying to call God back to the mountain, or, failing that, raise a peep out of anything that isn't us? What is the difference between a cathedral and a physics lab? Are not they both saying: Hello? We spy on whales and on interstellar radio objects; we starve ourselves and pray till we're blue.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Blue #Whales #Differences

  • Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Giving #Lost

  • One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Inspirational #Life #Book

  • The way to learn about a writer is to read the text. Or texts.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Way

  • The interior life is often stupid.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Stupid #Life Is

  • The creatures I seek do not want to be seen.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Want #Creatures

  • The painter... does not fit the paints to the world. He most certainly does not fit the world to himself. He fits himself to the paint. The self is the servant who bears the paintbox and its inherited contents.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Self #Doe #World

  • I still try to keep my eyes open. I'm always on the lookout for antlion traps in sandy soil, monarch pupae near milkweed, skipper larvae in locust leaves. These things are utterly common, and I've not seen one
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Eye #Trying #Soil

  • An Eskimo shaman said, Life's greatest danger lies in the fact that man's food consists entirely of souls.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Lying #Men #Soul

  • Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies in which light chooses an unexpected part of the landscape to trick out in gilt, and then the shadow sweeps it away. You know you're alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planet's roundness arc between your feet.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Light #Feet #Shadow

  • 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

    #Summer #New York #Writing

  • Put yourself out of your misery.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Misery

  • When I first read the words 'introvert' and 'extrovert' when I was 10, I thought I was both.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Extroverts #Firsts #Introvert

  • When I walk with a camera, I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment's light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Reading #Light #Sight

  • The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, and God.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Mind #World #Want

  • The mind itself is an art object ... The mind is a blue guitar on which we improvise the song of the world.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Song #Art #Blue

  • We live half our waking lives and all of our sleeping lives in some private, useless, and insensible waters we never mention or recall.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Life #Sleep #Water

  • Our life seems cursed to be a wiggle merely, and a wandering without end.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Life #Ends #Wander

  • The courage of children and beasts is a function of innocence.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Children #Innocence #Beast

  • If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair... or go into business. You’ve got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Wings #Way #Cliffs

  • Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me. This is easy to write, easy to read, and hard to believe.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Believe #Love You #Writing

  • The dear, stupid body is as easily satisfied as a spaniel.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Stupid #Body #Dear

  • Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Beauty #Men #Race

  • Self-consciousness is the curse of the city and all that sophistication implies.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Self #Cities #Consciousness

  • Every live thing is a survivor on a kind of extended emergency bivouac.
    -- Annie Dillard

    #Survival #Survivor #Emergencies

  • How you spend your days is how you spend your life.
    -- Annie Dillard