For me, now the Hay festival has over for another year, the weekend papers’s cultural and review sections become a little less interesting as the inspirational nuggets from writers disappear. But this year I have saved some of these bon motes to pin on the door of my fridge/freezer to comfort me before I delve into its depths searching for sweet calorific comforts of compensation.
Although born in Strasbourg, Elif Safak is heralded as a Turkish writer[i]. In her eleven listed Rules of Writing[ii] she urges, “authors to write the book they want to read and to cut their work mercilessly.” Well you have to be writing something to cut anything, so here follows the first five of her rules – they gave me some comfort.
1. Writing is a tribute to solitude. It is choosing introversion over extroversion, lonely hours/days/weeks/years over fun and sociability. Writers might enjoy a good gossip or a crazy party once in a while, but the act of writing and the nexus of our lives is pure solitude.
2. The only way to learn writing is by writing. Talent, as charming as it sounds, amounts to no more than 12 per cent of the process. Work is 80 per cent. The remaining 8 per cent is ‘luck’ or ‘zeitgeist’ – in short, things that are not in our hands.
3. Read. Read a lot. But do not solely read the same writers. If possible, read as widely, irrationally. Fiction cannot be reduced to a function.
4. Write the book you’d love to read. If you enjoy what you are writing (which doesn’t mean you won’t suffer while writing it) chances are people will feel the same way while reading it. If there is not love between the author and the story, there is no love between the reader and the story.
5. Don’t be afraid of depression. It is part and parcel of the journey. But be careful not to romanticise depression. Treat it as a free-spirited unreliable friend who comes and goes as she likes.
I realise that I do miss the company of people – and cats, but I like Shafak’s encouragement to read widely. I think I will pull out one of my books that gives diagrams to follow and plot a fictional story. I wonder how the information I know about the van Aken (Heacken) brothers will fill in to such formulas? Can’t think why I try it before now.