Thursday, 17 December 2009

ALI SMITH and JACKIE KAY, ON WRITING

These are from the talk by Ali Smith and Jackie Kay at Bridport Literary Festival 2009. And why, as a writer and a teacher, they strike me as so good.
“Imagination has no gender. It has no colour, no creed. No sexual persuasion. It is irrelevant what the writer is…”

I love this – how often do we hear that there is ‘women’s writing’ and men’s writing’. What tosh, whoever says it. There is writing. Full stop. Why aren't we honest and say there is writing that appeals to more female READERS then male, and vice versa? And that has to do with interests of the readers, and their values, and other things. Nothing to do with the writer.

“Voice is so important. Each story has its own voice. You need to find it, then you’re off.”

I love this – Find the voice of the STORY and you will find something fundamental. I wonder how many writers get stuck trying to find ‘their’ voice? I remember the thunderbolt moment when Jacob Ross (short story writer, novelist, tutor at a fab Arvon course) recognised my writer’s voice from a bit of scribble I’d just done – to me it was nothing like the pieces I’d submitted to the course. This was the thunderbolt. Voice is NOT for us to actively recognise. It's for others…
“A story goes off in its own direction – despite the writer. You are unaware of the thing.”

“A writer needs self belief and self doubt in the same measure”

Wonderfully put. If we just think we are marvellous, we put a stop on our learning. If we just doubt, we don’t fight for anything. It’s that swing between utter doubt and confidence that enriches and drives.
“Writing is 50% instinct, 50% editing. Let yourself go, then rein yourself in.”

“Reading and writing are opposite sides of the same coin”

“Form is a leap of faith – you don’t get to choose. If you try to choose form it will elude you.”

“If you’re going to write, you won’t escape it. Even if you leave it late.”

“A writer who shows you that you can do anything you like, is Grace Paley.”

6 comments:

Annie said...

Just when I needed a new collection of inspiring quotes....thanks

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Pleasure, Annie. Aren't they good?

Georgia said...

"If we just think we are marvellous, we put a stop on our learning. If we just doubt, we don’t fight for anything. It’s that swing between utter doubt and confidence that enriches and drives."

All good quotes, but it was yours I'd like to repeat!

~ Georgia.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

How lovely! Georgia, feel free to quote. I've seen enough mediocre writers who think they are terrific - tell the world they are great, and stay mediocre. And plenty of doubters who keep their heads well below the parapet.
The best are a mixture of the two.

minniebeaniste said...

Oh yes, please: I'd like to second Georgia's comment!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Thanks Minnie! Cor - I've made up a quote!