For procrastinators among you writing the Great American Novel, here are some links with advice on writing:
- Hilary Mantel : The joys of stationery. The Guardian, 2010-03-06. On why writers need to keep loose-leaf notebooks. An excerpt:
That said, le vrai moleskine and its mythology irritate me. Chatwin, Hemingway: has the earth ever held two greater posers? The magic has surely gone out of the little black tablet now that you can buy it everywhere, and in pastel pink, and even get it from Amazon – if they believe your address exists. The trouble with the Moleskine is that you can’t easily pick it apart. This may have its advantages for glamorous itinerants, who tend to be of careless habit and do not have my access to self-assembly beech and maple-effect storage solutions – though, as some cabinets run on castors, I don’t see what stopped them filing as they travelled. But surely the whole point of a notebook is to pull it apart, and distribute pieces among your various projects? There is a serious issue here. Perforation is vital – more vital than vodka, more essential to a novel’s success than a spellchecker and an agent.
I often sense the disappointment when trusting beginners ask me how to go about it, and I tell them it’s all about ring binders.”
- Rachel Cusk : Can creative writing ever be taught? The Guardian, 2010-01-30. A moving discussion on teaching creative writing, and the relationship between writing and therapy.
Honest criticism, I suppose, has its place. But honest writing is infinitely more valuable.
At the start of last term, I asked my students a question: “How did you become the person you are?” They answered in turn, long answers of such startling candour that the photographer who had come in to take a couple of quick pictures for the university magazine ended up staying for the whole session, mesmerised. I had asked them to write down three or four words before they spoke, each word indicating a formative aspect of experience, and to tell me what the words were. They were mostly simple words, such as “father” and “school” and “Catherine”. To me they represented a regression to the first encounter with language; they represented a chance to reconfigure the link between the mellifluity of self and the concreteness of utterance. It felt as though this was a good thing for even the most accomplished writer to do. Were the students learning anything? I suppose not exactly. I’d prefer to think of it as relearning. Relearning how to write; remembering how.
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