When I encountered this sentence, I took it personally. I like being brilliant. I like it so much that I don’t write as much as I should. It’s uncomfortable to start writing, to try to flesh out a thought, and then to lose my way. All too often my ideas are not as brilliant as I thought.

As a writer, I find this sentence touches upon so much writerly advice. There are nods to procrastination and imposter syndrome. There is the hint of platitude: Write every day. That’s what it says to me, anyway. I accept the advice with a grimace. I admit, it’s a good plan.

Amy Liptrot’s memoir, “The Outrun,” is a story of recovery. She writes from the Orkney Islands, a remote archipelago off the north shore of Scotland, where she grew up and where she returned after an alcoholic existence in London. She gradually finds ways to fill her days, including regular swims in the frigid sea. It helps satisfy her need for thrills.

In context of recovery from addiction, Liptrot’s sentence serves as a mantra. By this point in her story, we’ve seen her wrangle with her cravings. “Doing what I can each day,” harkens the recovery creed, “live one day at a time.” It also contrasts with the phrase, “thinking longer term,” providing tension.

And reminding me of that annoying truism that Annie Dillard phrased so well in “The Writing Life:” “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”


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