“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
I’ve been reading The Writing Life by Annie Dillard recently. It’s a slender book that offers lots of rich insights into well, a writing life. Though it’s incredibly well-written and offers plenty of insights, none of the passages are more inspiring than the one above; so instructive on a large-scale, and powerful in its simplicity. It brings what matters into focus. Because it’s true!: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Because it’s true! How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Deceptively simple writing guidance
Dillard’s book is a type of instructional memoir. I’d seen it included on ‘best books for writers’ listicles enough times to pick it up. And it was a good choice. She uses sparse prose and snatches of imagery to draw illuminations and insights about what it means to be a writer, and what she’s done. It’s intimate and also universal.
But that quote: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” That really landed with me.
Because if that’s the case (it is) isn’t it worth it to spend our days (and thus our lives), doing things that we’re interested in? We put more of ourselves into, and get more out of? The hard work we do to earn a living and become more fully evolved as a person. Also, to make time for leisure pursuits, for family, for friendships, and adventure.
The hard work we do to earn a living and the even harder work we do to become more fully evolved as a person. And also, to make time for leisure pursuits, for family, for friendships, and adventure.
As a new dad, a creative person working 4/5s, and a chronic procrastinator, I feel that lesson deeply.
Sharing amongst new dads
I shared this quote with my friend Simon when we met up for coffee to talk about being new dads. We marveled over it for a while. And I think the practicable life lessons are clear and actionable.
Quit fucking around. But also: make more time to fuck around, be idle, stare at your laughing baby. Learn sleight-of-hand magic, ride bikes. And plan adventures, put in the hard yards to work on the things you’re committed to. But also: bake bread, sleep more, and tell the people you care about that you love them.
Be idle, but don’t waste time. Stare at your laughing baby, not your phone. Learn Dutch and sleight-of-hand card magic, ride bikes, and make time to get exercise. Plan adventures and eat well.
Put in the hard yards to work on the things you’re committed to. Also: bake bread, sleep more, and tell the people you care about that you love them.
And that’s what I’m doing: filling up my days with what matters, what feels good, and what I find challenging. Not always in that order, though. Because some of the days (and thus my life) are just for relaxing.