October 9, 2014

Writers: Be As The Tortoise, Not The Hare

I just read an interesting interview of Amélie Nothomb in Le Nouvel Observateur in honor of her latest publication Pétronille.

In the interview, the Belgian author is asked whether she is scared of running dry of ideas, to which she answers the following (translated from French)--please note she associates the process of creating a book to that of creating a baby:

It is true that I cannot stand not writing. I'm at my 80th novel! I always make it a point to start my new pregnancy the day following the birthing of the previous [novel]. It is the only thing that distinguishes me from other authors who, I believe, take some time off between two books.

I do not know how they do it, for the most difficult thing to do in this business is to set yourself to work again. One should now allow the the wound to scar over. If it closes up, there is no way to make it bleed again. And as it is a pleasurable hemorrhage which gives me great enjoyment, I don't allow myself any time off.

Though I believe there are more writers out there who subscribe to her way of thinking, I think Nothomb hits the nail on the head, at least for myself: I have found it extremely hard to get the ball rolling again once I let myself or outside events stop me in my writerly tracks.

I therefore will do my best as of today not to let anything break my stride as I feel each time I have done so I've had to relearn (parts of) my craft and, sometimes, even my own stories and characters (which, trust me, is a much more painful process than one might think)!

So on that note, all I've got to say to you is: To infinity and beyond!


  1. Ms. Nothomb says that she "cannot stand not writing". I also cannot stop writing book reviews, even though I have about 0.000001 of her writing talent. But I would like to point out that the more books she writes, the less interesting I find them. I think "Le Sabotage amoureux" is one of the best books I have read in my life. "Métaphysique des tubes", "Stupeur et tremblements", and "Hygiène de l'assassin" are good or great too (I read them all in English translation). But then I cannot finish any of the later books by her. Maybe there is such a thing as burnout? Saturation? Nothing more new to say?

    1. I've only ever read one or two books of her, so I haven't been burned out just yet! But it's happened to me with plenty of authors, especially when they write interminable series. Perhaps, in this case, even though it's not technically a long series, all the books are more or less autobiographical (please correct me if I'm wrong), so after a while it may grow uninteresting for some (unless she lives an adrenaline-inducing lifestyle)? It's just a hypothesis, of course.

    2. PS: The more book reviews you write the better your writing will become (though I find your style a lot fun to read)! Or at least that's what I keep telling myself ^.^