by Aqeela Naqvi
“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.
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? […] why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? […] 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 hope of meaningfulness, and press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?
[…] 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. you search, you break your fists, your back, your brain, and then – and only then – it is handed to you. […] one line of a poem, the poet said – only one line, but thank God for that one line – drops from the ceiling. Thornton Wilder cited this unnamed writer of sonnets: one line of a sonnet falls from the ceiling, and you tap in the others around it with a jeweler’s hammer. nobody whispers it in your ear. it is like something you memorized once and forgot. now it comes back and rips away your breath. you find and finger a phrase at a time; you lay it down as if with tongs, restraining your strength, and wait suspended and fierce until the next one finds you: yes, this; and yes, praise be, then this.
[…] 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. the impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. something more will arise for later, something better. these things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. 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.
after Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ‘draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.'”
– annie dillard