Thursday, 17 November 2011

Why do we write novels?

"I've never known a writer who didn't feel ill at ease in the world. ... We all feel unhoused in some sense. That's part of why we write. We feel we don't fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we're not of it. ... You don't need to write a novel if you feel at home in the world."

Andrea Barrett
I came across this quotation in a Writer's Almanac segment this week.  It made me sit and think for a while.  Certainly for most of my  life I've felt an outsider.  Not because I was rejected in childhood; on the contrary I enjoyed a very settled and loving life. 
For me the disjoint came as for others in adolescence.  Janis Ian's song, long after the events, told my story. No beauty queen me and that was the first time I stood outside of myself and observed the behaviour of others.  I wonder now what would have happened if I'd started writing at that point.  But having been rejected as not good enough to take an English A level, I assumed writing was for others, more clever than me.
Andrea Barrett has also talked about being told to put down her book, go out and live a normal life.  I remember someone saying that to me in my twenties.  But if you're built differently, you're built differently aren't you?
Of course I've made my way in the world, a different one that has taken in other observer roles, like being a complementary therapist.  And of course all my experience, including my otherness, is now at the service of what I try to write. 
And now, I'm glad of that detachment and difference.

1 comment:

  1. I think a major part of why I write is because I don’t feel at home with myself. You need to be comfortable with who you are before you try and integrate with others. I write to work things out not to tell stories and that takes time. Someone posted an article online saying that ebook authors should be aiming at uploading four books a year and I responded along the lines that that would be impossible if quality was to be maintained. Her response – basically a simple arithmetic calculation showing how it was technically possible – showed me that we’re obviously very different writers. I write for me first and foremost and if it happens that what I write pleases others that is a bonus.