The Crucible of Writing

By | 02/20/2017

Photo Credit: Historias Visuales via Compfight cc

In her book, “The Writing Life,” Annie Dillard compared the process of starting a book with the survival technique a native American woman used to keep her and her baby alive during a brutal Antarctic winter.

That winter, her entire village dies from starvation, and she and her baby were the sole survivors. After rummaging through her belongings, she finds a fish hook and some fishing line. She attaches the line to the hook, but then realizes she has no bait. In desperation, she uses a knife to slice flesh from her thigh to use as bait.

After lowering the hook down into the water, she catches a fish. She cooks the fish to provide a meal for her baby, and then uses the fish guts as bait for her next catch. She repeats this process all winter to keep her and her baby alive.

When spring arrives and the snow melts, he leaves the village and finds another village with resources and people to sustain her family.

Starting a new writing project can feel like that. You carve out a part of yourself—a memory or experience from your past—attach it to a web page, and send it out into the wild. With passion and perseverance to keep you going (something author Angela Duckworth calls Grit), your words eventually help someone in need. That gives you the encouragement to continue the process to help more people in need.

Perhaps that’s the crucible of being a writer: sacrificing part of yourself to feed a hungry soul. But sometimes, the process leaves a scar that most people can’t see.