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10 Tips On Writing From Zadie Smith

July 10, 2017 , In: Tips & Lessons , With: No Comments
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“I went to therapy.”

“I’ve always felt very cringe-y about myself. Fiction is a useful way of getting around it or disguising oneself one way or another. Not being able to write in the first person was very much about that, and self-disgust or anxiety about saying ‘I’. I used to sit in front of the computer and have a very tough time writing, and I just noticed, once I was in therapy, I didn’t find it so difficult to write.”

This is Zadie Smith’s answer to Jeffrey Eugenides when the latter asks her how she wrote Swing Time so fast. Zadie Smith’s writing is honey being poured into milk. She has a soft tone that breaks into the still, hardness of your being and plunges you into the characters she has placed on the paper. Her work is even more permeating when she reads them out, dripping moments of dramatic prose into your heart.

If you’ve read any of her books(White Teeth, Swing Time, NW etc), you’ll get the permeation I am describing. Her work perpetuates a singleness of mind.

41 year old, Zadie Smith is an English novelist, essayist, and short story writer. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002. In a 2004 BBC poll of cultural researchers, Smith was named among the top twenty most influential people in British culture.

In 2003, she was included on Granta‘s list of 20 best young authors and was also included in the 2013 list. She joined New York University’s Creative Writing Program as a tenured professor on 1 September 2010. Zadie Smith has won the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2006 and her novel White Teeth was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.

In 2010, The Guardian reached out to some of today’s most celebrated authors and asked them to each offer their rules and philosophies on writing. Here are Zadie Smith’s:

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticize your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

In an equally exhilarating conversation with  Jeffrey Eugenides during the 2016 New Yorker Festival, the two discuss their daily writing habits and how much time they spend writing every day.

You should see the conversation below: 


Featured Image Via: Vol. 1 Brooklyn
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