I am reading writers in the hope of having something to say today. I thought continuing my reading of nature writers might help. Annie Dillard has a new book coming out this week. It seemed fitting to read about her and her books after reading about woman botanists. (yesterdays post). Annie is not a woman of science and yet she is an acute observer of the world around her. She includes great details of the natural world but her writings move more to the side of philosophy – the musings of the mind. It is nature that gets her there.
I read two articles in the Atlantic about her and listened to her interview with NPR. I pulled out my old copy of Pilgrim at Tinkers Creek and thumbed through it. For all the stimulus there I finally got hooked on Annie’s comment about why she is writing less.
“Old memories are very easy to get except that once you write about something you’ve destroyed it. You no longer have the memory. You only have the memory of what you’ve written.
– It’s like people who take photographs during their whole vacation. They won’t remember their vacation. They’ll only remember what photographs they took.”
Is this true? or is it just true of Annie Dillard?
It seems that she is saying two things here. One about photography and our fascination with taking pictures to show that we are doing important and cool things. We have forgotten to enjoy the moment – the beach, the people we are with or the landscape we are walking in. We are in search of the right photo and have lost the actual moment. I suppose this could be true of a writer as well if we are seeking moments to write about instead of writing in reflection of moments experienced.
The other point she seems to be making and I wonder about is this – “once you write about something you have destroyed it.” It may be true for her. Maybe she only has the memory of her writing but for me it feels different.
When I take time to write I seek details, the sights and sounds of the moment. I feel like I remember more and can hold the memory in a stronger way. I take time to gather meaning from the moment. I am not sure I would say it is destroying that moment. I am writing to recall a specific moment in time.
Annie’s writing is loosely non-fiction narrative and she has often created stories to make her point more dramatic or clear. Those stories hold a truth but are not actually true for her. They are stories she has gathered and placed within her life narrative. Given the fact that she is creating stories within her story I can see how writing and real life could be confusing but certainly not destroyed.
So what are your thoughts? Does writing destroy that moment in your memory? Do you only remember the writing? Do you agree with Annie?