Why write and how?


It is a frequently asked question - from others and from the writer herself.  Why do you write - and how?  For me it is an itch that, even when an idea is put onto paper, is still there, and only when that idea is fleshed out into a first draft has the itch been satisfied, albeit temporarily.  The Times 2 section in today's paper have put together a great feature on this very issue, asking a bunch of successful writers, which coincides with the Times Cheltenham Literary Festival.  Robert Harris says that, for him, it is a vocation; that is, he would write regardless of whether he was paid or not, labelling it, like my itch, an impulse.  Douglas Coupland says his relationship with writing is 'so tangled up with visual art'.  He says that he can't imagine not doing it and that it is probably the only disciplined part of his life.  I hate to think what the rest of his life is like!  Pat Barker claims to write for the characters, seeing them as separate entities, although acknowledging that they come from the subconscious - and, whilst she may start out with an outline the characters rapidly take over and create their own journeys.  I really identified with Esther Freud's comments that when she's writing, she 'feels so different at the end of the day, like I've got something out of my system.'  And she goes on to compare it to how some must feel after meditation.  Iain Banks says that it helps if you are the sort of person who can spot large scale patterns around you and to do that may usually mean that, to a degree, you're on the outside.  I'm sure artists must say similar things, in fact, anyone who is in touch with their creativity - and I think that, anyone who is 'at one' with what they do, which is definitely not most, that they are in touch with this part of themselves, whether they are bricklaying, baking or writing. 

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