Link: Hilary Mantel’s process of letting go

This New Yorker (15 Oct. 2012 issue) profile of novelist Hilary Mantel contains this interesting description of how she tries to let go of control during her writing:

“I don’t think one ever quite learns to trust the process,” she says. “I feel, What if I wake up tomorrow and I can’t do it anymore? I know I’ll always be able to write, in the sense of having a robust style that’s sufficient to the occasion, and I know that books can be got onto the page by craft, but the thing that makes a phrase that fizzes on the paper—you always fear that may not be there any longer, because, after all, you did nothing to deserve it. You did nothing to contrive it. It’s just there. You don’t understand it, it’s out of your control, and it could desert you.”

What resonates for me in this quote is the part about how the writer does nothing to deserve, to contrive, his/her ideas, and how we don’t even necessarily understand them. I often feel this way — that I don’t deserve ego-stroking credit for the best things I write, because I was more conduit than creator. But this is such a wonderful experience when it happens, being present to midwife a new idea, a lovely turn of phrase, etc. And while Mantel is describing her fiction-writing process, I experience a similar thing with my nonfiction writing.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.