Advice for aspiring writers

If today someone who knew the truth told me that I could never be paid for another line that I wrote, what do you imagine I should do ? I should sit down and start another book for the sheer love of writing it.

I think none of us could be successful if the fact of putting pen to paper did not give us a tremendous satisfaction and a mature happiness.

The side of the picture which the general public thinks that we enjoy leaves me very cold. Publicity has never attracted me, for I am a modest person, and to anyone who is by nature shy, publicity can be extremely awkward. I hate curtain calls. I should never make another public appearance if I could avoid it, and most of my friends say much the same thing and feel exactly the same way, but the publisher expects you to give him some small help ‒ if help it is ‒ and it is only fair to do this much for him. Also the readers seem to want to see you. I can never think why, because some of us, if not all of us, must be deeply disappointing and let the reader down badly.

Those who read our books draw pretty pictures of the author as being someone who has never done a hand’s turn in any domestic capacity; someone who lives in the fashionable restaurants, goes to heavenly parties, and enjoys herself enormously. They forget that writing itself takes time, and ours can be one of the most monotonous jobs. It is also unbelievably lonely. Because I am a writer I have to spend hours of the day entirely alone before one of my typewriters, working until I could drop. My study is a tiny room in the back of a quite small flat, and I am in that room for very long hours at a time. There are moments when I envy the women who on summer’s days can sit in the gardens of the block of flats, with their needlework, or the latest library book, or with friends to whom they chatter. My work is the barrier between myself and much of that sort of thing. But I am dedicated to it, and it is the job that I understand.

On the other side, writing has made me innumerable friends even if I have not met them. Not only are they those readers who write to me from time to time, but those heroes and heroines all dwelling in the imaginary world which for ever dangles its baubles before the author. Just as when I was a child I invented three imaginary playmates who came and played with me, now through my books hundreds of men and women pass, some of whom become very staunch friends, those I hate to part with when the book ends.

For the writer there is always something new to think about. The fountain still flows. There are the eternal ideas which trickle through the mind. Delicate, charming, irresistible, and sometimes even rising into a torrent, but always intriguing.

To those who want to write and stand trembling on the brink, I would say ‘Go on.’ The world is your oyster ‒ open it! You must be prepared to accept disappointment, to be knocked flat repeatedly, but always be prepared to rise again and go on where you left off. You must deal with victory in the same way as you deal with defeat. Never hold your head too high, or too low. Go on quite steadily, and if you have the courage to do this then you have a future.

This is a hard road; never for a moment would I try to paint it as a calm path to tread. It is wild and it is tough, but at the same time the stars hang over it, and that sense of accomplishment, even if it is in quite a small way, has something which is unbelievably stimulating about it. It is worth trying. But you don’t need me to tell you that, for if you are a born writer then there is no chance of your doing anything else but write your books.


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