For much of the time I was writing My Absolute Darling, I lived on the fourth floor of a falling-down apartment building in downtown Salt Lake City. In the summer, with the heat rising from the apartments below us, it could get to be 106 degrees. We had no air-conditioning, and I’d work hunched on the floor, dripping sweat, slamming redbull, and loving the work. In the winter, if I left a glass on the windowsill, it would ice over. The radiators hissed and steamed and sometimes fountained water like you were in a submarine that had just been hit. I wrote whenever I could. I had no regular hours, no desk, no place save the living room floor, no meditative rituals, no artist’s lifestyle, no coffeehouses I frequented, nothing except the work itself. I wrote whenever I wasn’t in the backcountry and wasn’t at the restaurant. I tried to keep my hours at the restaurant down to thirty a week, and I tried to write for thirty or forty more, which meant getting up and getting straight to the keyboard and working hard throughout the day if I was to have any chance of getting out climbing that night.
The 4thcoming series is all about introducing you to our authors. If you’ve ever wondered what your favourite 4th Estate author is currently reading, listening to or what their writing ritual is, then we’ve got all those answers for you.
Name: Craig Brown
What’s it about? A biography of Princess Margaret, the royal who made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando clam up; who cold-shouldered Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, diaries and essays, Ma’am, Darling is a breezy meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.
Get excited: Christmas is nearly here.
Ok, maybe not. But we’ve got a cover reveal which is almost as good as Christmas: Nigel Slater’s latest book is a glorious blend of recipes and diary entries featuring everything you need for the winter solstice.
I wanted to write many years before I became good at it. I practiced writing in the same way that a pianist practices scales or a tennis player practices serves. I worked on sentences, then paragraphs, then scenes, over and over, until I got them right. If you want to become a writer, you may find the same is true for you. There is a long apprenticeship before you can write a full-length novel—and ages before you can write a good one. However, you can develop traits in yourself that will make it more likely you will succeed.
I am not saying you can’t be an excellent writer without developing these characteristics—authors’ personalities are replete with bizarre idiosyncrasies, social deviance, not to mention serious drug and alcohol abuse that sometimes obscure the work, itself. Admittedly success for any writer is rare, but here are a few ideas that might those of you who are writing.