Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Writer's Need for Silence

From a review by Kathryn Hughes of Maggie Gee's memoir My Animal Life in Saturday's Guardian Review:
In one of the most powerful parts of the book she lays bare an awful period in the mid-90s when her editor at HarperCollins turned her sixth book down flat. Part of the problem, he explained helpfully, was that lots of people hadn't really heard of her and, in an age when "profile" counted, this was proving tricky. Gee hadn't been in the habit of going to the right literary parties, preferring to stay at home with her husband and child and simply write. She'd always believed that the work was what mattered and now she was paying the price for her ignorance/arrogance.
I hope that's ironic, that 'ignorance/arrogance'. The trouble is, as Robert McCrum indicates this week, the writing of a novel can need the kind of immersion in solitude which Maggie Gee was cultivating, and with which all those other activities increasingly associated with the life of a writer - networking and marketing - can interfere.

It so happens that similar matters are touched on in my visit today to writer Nuala Ni Chonchuir's blog, for the virtual tour for my novel Too Many Magpies. She asks me about my typical day and how I fit other such things in with writing, and this is part of my answer:
I can only write well to my own satisfaction, I find, when I can become truly obsessed with what I'm working on and entirely adrift on its dream world... My ideal writing day ... is to write from nine in the morning until about half-one, after which time I'm pretty done in and need to stretch and get some exercise ... as well as, most importantly, have some pondering time for the next day's writing bout. Well, I wish! Now I so often spend the rest of the day into the evening on the web doing all the things we writers need to do nowadays to market our books - and end up with nothing else done and the next day's writing unpondered, and feeling really frazzled!

1 comment:

fiona glass said...

Sounds all too familiar - I don't think many people (writers included!) realise just how little writing writers actually do, in the welter of admin and publicity and marketing and editing and gawd knows what else.

I hope that reviewer was being ironic too. Surely there's more to writing than attending 'the right literary parties'. *rolls eyes*