Sunday, October 03, 2010

Jim Crace on writing

Another session at the literature festival last night - this time Jim Crace, whose The Pesthouse is a fine post-apocalyptic novel. Jim was a very engaging speaker and fine reader of his own work. An excellent evening.

He talked a fair bit about writing craft and made the observation that writing is about 'abandonment and control, at the same time'. He is, like me, very much of the 'don't plot, see what emerges' school of writing. And so there needs to be an element of abandon, seeing what comes out of the thinking and writing process. But there has to be some writerly control of it, otherwise it will become a sprawling mess. He compared it, in an image he kept apologising for, to being like watching a boy flying a kite on a windy day. You can admire the control that goes into managing that kite - or writing that book. But at the same time you have to appreciate that he is doing so in the face of forces he cannot hope to control. He can harness the wind for those few moments and create a moment of beauty, but the wind will howl on regardless. The writer's job is to harness the forces of living and consciousness and our hopes and fears, and use them to fashion something beautiful. It takes great skill.


boxofficegirl said...

It's always comforting to come across other writers who share the same methods of approach to their work.

Tom Conoboy said...

Yes, and Jim came across as a very natural and unaffected sort of writer. A little bit surprising, actually, because his work is generally quite poetic, which you often associate with more pained, carefully crafted styles.

I was very impressed with him, I have to say.