Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

one of the goals of writing about an experience is to mythologize it—

Saturday morning, nothing scheduled – open day ahead of me; in my world this comes pretty close to happiness – !

After a short walk with my dog, I sat down to read The Thoreau of the Suburbs by Diana Saverin, a great essay on Annie Dillard, but also a very good text on the art of writing.

Saverin’s text is about the making of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Saverin has studied the creation of the book (the pre-history) by reading Dillard’s scrapbooks, journals, notecards, high school diaries, and letters to editors and friends (most of which Dillard had donated herself to Yale’s Beinecke Library).

This is Saverin on Dillard:

By the time Dillard decided to write Pilgrim, she had filled dozens of journals with passages from what she had been reading, anecdotes from her walks, facts about natural history, and dreams about luna moths mating. She had started writing in journals to help her quit smoking, but by the time she was writing in her second spiral notebook, she’d realized writing down her thoughts gave her physical access to the contents of her mind, as if everything she had ever read were fresh in her mind.

Dillard's notes

She decided to use her journals to write the book and set about copying what she thought was most interesting onto notecards. She ended up with a 17-inch box filled with 1,100 notecards that she shuffled and reshuffled, trying to divide the anecdotes, facts, quotes, and ideas into chapters.

The glee of coming up with the idea for the book soon gave way to the struggle of putting the book together. She asked in one notebook, “What the hell am I going to do with these notecards?” Pages later, she wrote, “I am going nuts over this book. What kind of book is it?”

You can (and should) read the rest of the story here

4 comments on “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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