1) Dillard's process—at least as she describes it on pages 49-52—involves trying to work herself up into a fury, drinking multiple cups of coffee, putting herself in a vise clamp (metaphorically), and smoking multiple cigarettes. In short, she engages in the physical manipulation of the self in order to attain a “writerly” state of mind, to find the “lions” so to speak. Do you engage in any physical rituals as you prepare to write? How much does your physical position affect your ability to write? Do you have any pre-writing rituals? If so, what do they accomplish?
The main key to my writing-or anything else-really-is caffeine. I don't drink coffee though, so this means copious amounts of cherry coke. I like to write school papers in the library but I also like a healthy amount of very loud music when I write creatively. I end up writing in tempo to the music, with frequent breaks for air guitar and air drums. I sometimes end up writing in restaurants. I feel I can write okay in pretty much any situation, but some are better than others.
2) In the opening chapter, Dillard describes writing (or perhaps more accurately rewriting), as a process of knocking out bearing walls. When you write or rewrite, how often do you knock down those bearing walls? If we can think of bearing walls as the necessary structures that support, yet also put limitations upon, writing, who creates these foundations/limitations? That is to say, are the bearing walls to which Dillard refers generated by the writer, or by social constructions?
I occasionally find myself knocking down the bearing walls of my writing. I think writers themselves put these limitations on their writing. It can feel like a betrayal to change/eliminate these original ideas.
3) Dillard uses myriad metaphors to describe the process of writing—Inchworms, bees, construction sites, exploding typewriters, etc. Do you find any of her metaphors particularly salient for—or applicable to—your own perception of writing? Do you have (or can you come up with) any metaphors or images that seem to describe your own writing process? Do you consider metaphors useful in this sense?
I really liked the metaphor of the inchworm. When I am struggling, I really do feel that overwhelmed after every sentence. I also like Ernest Hemingway's statement about sitting at a typewriter and bleeding. Sometimes writing is that raw, intimate, and painful. Sometimes I feel like I can barely get any blood out. I think metaphors are very effective when discussing writing.
4) Part of the reason Dillard uses so many metaphors (I think) is that she seems to take a “mystical” view of writing. Do you share her sense of mysticism when it comes to writing? If you do, it might be a line of narrative worth continuing. If you don't, then how do you view writing in more concrete terms?
I am pretty mystic. I tend to follow the original meaning of the word "inspire", that is, to breathe in the spirit of creativity.
5) It is possible (and I am truly not sure) that Dillard's thick prose, mystical descriptions, and constant use of metaphors are meant more to entertain and intrigue us than to say anything concrete about writing? It may be a mixture of both. Dillard is considered a very talented writer, as this book and other books show. But she seems determined to maintain a certain vagueness when writing about writing. Why?
I think it is mixed, but I also think she wants to create a sacred distance between writers and non-writers. She criticizes writing as a profession as well as young writers, but obviously she feels that she is a "real" writer.