Anne Enright on what she learned (and didn’t) at her creative writing course:
The book went in the bin (a few box files sitting on my bottom shelf) and I went home and started to write for real. I learned all the hard things at UEA – difficulty, incapacity, failure, humility, the importance of working more on the page than in your head. Now when I hear of people taking a year off to write, I worry that a year might not be enough. You must fail as a writer for much longer than that, I think, before you know what failure is and what use you might make of it. I didn’t realise, when that first book fell apart, that every book falls apart. That this is the gig. You sit there and watch your word-count drop, and you hold your nerve.
3 thoughts on “Every book falls apart”
I remember it well. The second is notoriously difficult. Hang in there if you can; it will show itself eventually.
I’ve taken both courses at different times; the second one is to bail out and take some time off.
I think it was Arthur Miller who said, Criticism hurt me when I had failures. I thought: I’ll never write another play: But I’m an alligator. Only the alligators remain. The others get out of the water.
Hi John, lovely to hear from you. It’s still a while till I reach that ten-year mark, but I’m not even sure I’ll feel like a writer then. Things are definitely falling apart with my second novel, however. I used to think it would get easier. It doesn’t.
Ain’t that the truth. I haven’t got around to reading Anne Enright yet, but what she has to say here is spot-on. Someone once told me, if you want to be a writer you sit down and write for ten years, and after that you’ll be a writer.