As I work this week on what I hope is the final edit of Women Travel Memoirs: A Vehicle for Discovering the Continent Within, I am aware that the follow comments by Annie Dillard seem particularly prescient. The outcome of our creativity is not always as valuable as the effort it took to create.
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Every year the aspiring photographer brought a stack of his best prints to an old, honored photographer, seeking his judgment. Every year the old man studied the prints and painstakingly ordered them into two piles, bad and good. Every year the old man moved a certain landscape print into the bad stack. At length he turned to the young man: “You submit this same landscape every year, and every year I put it on the bad stack. Why do you like it so much?” The young photographer said, “Because I had to climb a mountain to get it.”
A cabdriver sang his songs to me, in New York. Some we sang together. He had turned the meter off; he drove around midtown, singing. One long song he sang twice; it was the only dull one. I said, You already sang that one; let’s sing something else. And he said, “You don’t know how long it took me to get that one together.”
How many books do we read from which the writer lacked courage to tie off the umbilical cord? How many gifts do we open from which the writer neglected to remove the price tag? Is it pertinent, is it courteous, for us to learn what it cost the writer personally?
-Annie Dillard, from The Writing Life