Monday 19 April 2010

The writing process

I have just found this excellent description of how it feels to start writing a book:

"A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and immediately it becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it's halfway to being just like every other bloody book." (The Ghost, by Robert Harris.)

This rang so many bells with me, and more or less sums up the huge dificulty I at least have in getting going. Because once the book has been started, it can never really come up to that perfect dream in the writer's head.

Or can it?


  1. I'd add: "Set down one paragraph and it's worse than most other books. Set down one page, and you wonder why you called yourself a writer in the first place".

  2. Hi Tim. I've always thught writing is a bit like drawing a horse (I've said this before - I think on Alis's blog). You can see the horse in your mind, but try to draw it and it's nothing like the real thing (unless, of course, you're an artist, and even then I suspect perfection is never achieved).

    We soldier on...

  3. A number of other writers echo that quote. I believe Joan Didion said something to the effect that the moment you write down the first sentence, you've lessened the book, tied it down, eliminated the infinite promises.

    Iris Murdoch was more to the point: "Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea."

  4. I love the Iris Murdoch quote, David. That just about sums it up (sadly).