On being a writer...

A celebration of the writing process, of being a writer, of all the weird things that pass through a writing brain...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Ultimate Test

Now try this.  What conditions does a writer need in order to write?  A room of her own?  Peace?  No interruptions?  A consistent space?  Somewhere to keep her books?

Ho hum. Well, let's see what deathless prose emerges when a writer is prized from her writing space like a mollusk from its shell.  Jane Austen was supposed to be able to write in a hubbub of visitors, but I do wonder how she'd have been when her desk was surrounded by builder's tools and men stomping in and out in a bit of mood because there was not enough space for them to work.

But there is such a thing as having too much tranquility.  We don't want to vegetate, surely.  Dickens wrote in a domestic, authorial and business turmoil. I suspect that the most important thing is to be able to access the writing zone in the brain, wherever that is, and I find that kicking in at the oddest of times:  in the middle of reading a great book, or at the theatre or on the Tube.  I've just read Stoner, by John Williams, which everyone seems to be reading these days.  Such a brilliant haunting portrait of a life - and of someone to whom change comes rather than one who sets out to change things.  The lack of ambition in the man, the desire he has just to read and write and love, and the way even those simple needs are thwarted, is compelling but relentless.  He's even a passive friend which in friendship probably isn't good enough.  And he isn't loved enough by anyone.

I do know one thing, though.  Being unsettled is no excuse not to write, so let's get down to it.  And if you want some tips on the writing process, you could do worse than read the author's notes at the back of Beautiful Ruins, fifteen years in the writing, numerous interruptions, and a slow emerging of what the book really is about.

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