Patricia Highsmith: Take A Nap

After coming across this piece in the Guardian, I’m reading the excellent Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith. I’ve been highlighting many choice quotes in my kindle, and so far this is perhaps one of the most helpful – and original – bits of writing advice:

But at times I am so tense and tired after dealing with red tape, I feel like taking a nap for fifteen minutes. A nap clears the head wonderfully, besides giving fresh energy. I realize that about half the people in the world cannot nap without feeling logy afterward, but for those who can, a nap is a time-saver, not a time-waster. In my twenties, I had to do my own writing in the evenings, as my days were taken up with jobs or hack work. I got into the habit of napping around six, or of being able to if I wished, and of bathing and changing my clothes. This gave me an illusion of two days in one and made me as fresh for the evening, under the circumstances, as I could possibly be. Problems in writing can come unknotted in a miraculous way after a nap. I go to sleep with the problem, and wake up with the answer.

I like that. I like most anything connected with sleep. I also like this book very much indeed. It should be of use to any writer, and not just writers of suspense.

Let It Come In

A lovely interview with Anne Tyler in today’s Observer. I liked this observation:

On the wall are printed a few lines from Richard Wilbur’s poem Walking to Sleep:

As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there,
Or a general raises his hand and is given the field-glasses,
Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind.
Something will come to you.

“I see those words as about getting an idea and making a book,” says Tyler. “I don’t get anxious. It will come to you, let it come in.”

Truth is a matter of the imagination


From the Archives of Hain. Transcript of Ansible Document 01-01101-934-2-Gethen: To the Stabile on Ollul: Report from Genly Ai, First Mobile on Gethen/Winter, Hainish Cycle 93 Ekumenical Year 1490-97

I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.

The story is not all mine, nor told by me alone. Indeed I am not sure whose story it is; you can judge better. But it is all one, and if at moments the facts seem to alter with an altered voice, why then you can choose the fact you like best; yet none of them are false, and it is all one story …

– Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Michel Faber: On Writers As Public People

(Or rather: On writing and himself as a public person.)

Michel Faber, author of not just one but two of my favourite novels (Under the Skin and The Crimson Petal and the White), quoted in a feature in Thresholds:

I’ve largely withdrawn from my career as a public person. I say no to almost all offers, don’t go to book festivals any more, etc. … I’ve resolved to avoid [these events], because you meet lots of people in the literary ‘industry’ and you smell their hunger for success or attention or status, and I hate to be reminded of all that.


Ursula Le Guin: On Adjectives And Adverbs

Adjectives and adverbs are good and rich and fattening. The main thing is not to overindulge … I would recommend to all storytellers a watchful attitude and a thoughtful, careful choice of adjectives and adverbs, because the bakery shop of English is rich beyond belief, and narrative prose, particularly if it’s going a long distance, needs more muscle than fat.

– Ursula Le Guin, Steering the Craft