Zadie Smith

Yesterday’s blog was quite long. So today’s blog could be quite short, the novel is calling and it drowns out all other cries. I reluctantly shut down the computer last night at 11.40 and was awake again at about 5.30 and still it calls. For a while I struggled with the fleshing out process and then I had a moment of illumination and now it’s flowing like wine when you smash the bottle, just before you stab someone in the stomach with it.

So today’s writing tips from the “Famous Writer’s Share their secrets” comes from Zadie Smith. She fascinates me because her first book was the subject of an auction between publishing houses when still a partial manuscript. She is British born and half Jamaican and she is a tenured Professor of fiction at New York University. She is also 37. If you haven’t read “White Teeth” you have missed a real treat.

 1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.

2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

3. Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.

5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.

8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement.

10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.


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