Tag Archives: Paris review

Do authors need to be lonely?

Noticed on Twitter recently, courtesy of @parisreview:

“I need the pain of loneliness to make my imagination work.” – Orhan Pamuk

To all the wordsmiths out there – is this true?

In my experience, I don’t need the pain of loneliness. Pain-free works better for me. That said, a stint in solitary confinement can be a good thing. Email, Internet and phone silence can be truly golden.

I do find my imagination fires up more frequently when I have a clear head, empty timetable and clean, quiet workspace. Clutter is the sworn enemy of my creativity.

Holidays help too. Fresh faces and places trigger new ideas and are the catalyst for curiosity. In the past fortnight I’ve had ideas for a picture book, junior fiction book and short story. Finding time to work on and finish them is the tough bit…

Re Tweeting

Twitter is the online equivalent of a pack of licorice all-sorts. There are tweets that trigger a frenzy – replies, follows, retweets, click throughs, outrage, excitement and more. These are those aniseedy jelly blobs covered in 100s and 1000s sprinkles that are snatched first from the lolly bowl.

There are tweeters that are consistently insightful, informative and fun – the dependable striped cubes from the allsorts pack. Good value in sensible quantities.

And there are those that serve up the plain licorice chunks that are always left in the bowl until they go green and leathery. Twisted and you’ll wish you didn’t indulge.

I embraced Twitter reluctantly but quickly became a convert. There’s a poetry to many snapshot tweets and often an honesty that comes with paring yourself to 140 characters. By following specific groups I feel part of those communities. I get updates and insights into the lives of other authors, journos, artists and more – including some that show me the super successful struggle with and/or celebrate the same things as me.

For instance, Neil Gaiman posted this as I was drafting this post:

@neilhimself: If there is a feeling better than that strange moment when a stalled story unsticks and becomes inevitable, I do not know what it could be.

Neil Gaiman has written novels for adults and children, comic books, screenplays, picture books and more. I attended an event at the State Library when fans waited three hours for his autograph. Yet he and I have something in common. I have sat and waited with a story I’m working on. Waited for the pieces of the plot to fall into place. Waited for closure.

The moment when understanding arrives is probably short of rapture but it feels mighty fine.

Other Twitter moments that struck a chord with me follow. I might add to this list as suitable tweets occur.

@parisreview: “The good thing about writing books is that you can dream while you are awake.” – Murakami (Interviews Vol. 4 http://bit.ly/3zPzeV)

@parisreview: “Writing is making sense of life.” -Nadine Gordimer http://bit.ly/4DHqMl

@parisreview: Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer — he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. -E.B. White

@tomwaits: Writing songs is like capturing birds w/o killing them. Sometimes you end up with nothing but a mouthful of feathers.

@tomwaits: I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. http://www.tomwaits.com

And

@PaulSherwen: Good African Proverb for today: If you get chased up a tree by a buffalo – enjoy the view.

Reader responses

When you write a story you have no control over how others are going to react to it. Sure, there are buttons you can press and levers you can pull to try and initiate a particular response but, ultimately, a reader’s personal experiences and preferences will determine their tastes.

We all like different stuff. People won’t necessarily enjoy what you do/write/compose/think/paint… Toughen up and move on.

That’s easy to say but I had a moment that really took me aback not so long ago. An adult reader smiled at me and said, “I started reading your book … but I’m not 10 or 11 so it wasn’t really for me.”

I was gob-smacked by her thoughtlessness. She was a family acquaintance of several years. I couldn’t care less that she didn’t like my novel. It was her attitude I found offensive. I almost had to physically restrain my loyal wife.

My response was to smile back and say “I’ve had readers as young as nine and old as 97 enjoy that story. But it’s not for everyone. Each to their own.”

Since joining the Twitterverse I’ve enjoyed all sorts of insights into how authors handle different situations.

Here’s a ripper from James Ellroy, courtesy of Paris Review (from memory) that talks about how to handle critics:

“If you’re confused about something in one of my books, you’ve just got to realize, Ellroy’s a master, and if I’m not following it, it’s my problem.”

Now you’ve got to like that sort of authorial thinking.