Ode to the next sentence


Such a generous interviewee is prolific writer Alan Hollinghurst. I’m struck by his candour and willingness to share vulnerable insights. I’m also struck by his final statement: It’s wonderful just to live in the world of creation and know that there aren’t any other demands on you, and that you’re going to think as deeply and as continuously as you can about the thing in hand.

Oh, if only!?

It brings to mind an exquisite passage from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life in which she shares the anguish of her writing process, a passage which affords deep resonance, precisely because it is an anguish I experience when the myriad ‘other demands‘ in life steal me away from the keyboard – holed-up in a beach shack wrestling with her latest novel:

The dog opened one eye, cocked it at me, and rolled it up before her lids closed. People should not feed moralistic animals. If they’re so holy, where are their books? I was starving, but eating was out of the question. Nausea might temper this energy, but eating would kill it.

I read it again. Reading, I drew all over it. This was usual. Now my drawings tightened and darkened; I pressed them into the paper. They were digging through the paper and into the desk, Where next? I knew where next. It was within my possiblitites. If only I could concetrate. I must quit. I was too young to be living at a desk. Many fine people were out there living, people whose consciences permitted them to sleep at night despite their not having written a decent sentence that day, of ever.

And yet we persist. Such is the writer’s lot. Ode to the next sentence.



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