All writers procrastinate. Break the habit by writing as soon as you wake up.
How do you start writing?
Writing is very good for household tasks. Because you’d rather fix a dripping tap or paint an old wall, you’d rather do almost anything than sit and write. I have to reach a point of obsession in order to write, and so I find starting a book incredibly difficult.
But what works is: when you wake up in the morning – and even before you make yourself a cup of coffee – just write a sentence. Even if it’s a terrible sentence that you cancel later, it puts your mind into the book. It tends to stay there. Does yoga help you write?
Yoga helps me with a composed and serene state of mind, which is good for writing.
Can writing be taught?
Everyone can sing but some people should only sing in the shower. Everyone who is literate can put a sentence together. But it’s a particular talent to put a sentence together in a beautiful or compelling way.
Writing is not like acting where you can pull these little stunts that create a particular effect. Words are all it is about, and the way you use words has to be individual and particular to you.
The best training you can possibly have is to read as much as you can.
Does writing help a writer lead an interesting life?
Generally, writers have very uninteresting lives. Very few people have the experience that Dostoevsky had, of being dragged out at dawn to be shot. (His great book followed on from that experience.) What you’re drawing on is internal. If your life is too full of big events and dramatic occurrences, it can kill your writing actually, because your internal imaginative faculty can be dampened.
Damon Galgut is the author of several books including the Man Booker Prize shortlisted novels The Good Doctor (2003) and In A Strange Room (2010). His latest, Arctic Summer (2014) is a fictionalised account of EM Forster’s many years in India. Galgut has visited India more than a dozen times, he completed the drafts of his first two novels in Goa.
From HT Brunch, April 19
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