To quote Stephen Fry quoting Clive James quoting Thomas Mann: “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than for other people.”
Stephen writes beautifully on what it’s like to find it difficult to write, and why it’s worth persevering, if you think you might be a writer.
As he points out at the end, “Of course finding it difficult and managing to complete are just the first stages. They are what earn you the uniform and the brass buttons, as it were.They don’t guarantee that what you complete is any good, or even readable,” but at least you have something to work with.
A big revelation for me was the detail that Elmore Leonard writes every day on pads of yellow legal paper and throws what he doesn’t like in the bin. And by the end of the day, the bin is full of scrunched up pages of yellow legal paper. But what’s left is sublime.
I thought, ‘If ELMORE LEONARD can throw stuff away, I sure as hell can’.
The best bits are never the ones that came easily. They’re the ones I had to sweat over, the ones that were never going to work, the ones that only started to make sense on the fourth rewrite.
I wrote something a couple of days ago when I was pushed for time in a cafe and it tripped off the keyboard. It was an echo of something I’d done a few chapters before and a very neat answer to a tricky problem. Too neat. I’m gearing up to rewrite it tomorrow. No idea how I’m going to do it, but it’s got to be done.
A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than other people. Stephen went on to say he finds that liberating. He’s right. Perhaps that’s how you know if you are one: if your response to that statement is a joyful ‘Oh, BOY, you betcha!’, then chances are, you probably are.