Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nadine Gordimer: "Reading, Reading—the Only Way to Become a Writer"

In the 64th in a series of posts on 2010 short story collections entered for The Story Prize, Nadine Gordimer, author of Life Times: Stories 1952-2007 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)), talks about the importance of writers preserving their own vision.

What is your writing process like?
I write in the mornings. Might feel myself summoned, in a way I can't ignore, to read over, critically, at night, the morning's pages, but I'm not a night writer the way some are. You have to find the spell of hours, night or day, within the twenty-four, to be alone in with the word.The morning discipline came about through certain circumstances as a writer: We usually don't have offices with staff to protect us from interruption, distraction. I never have.

At what stage do you seek feedback on your work?
I do not seek, never have sought "feedback" on what I'm currently writing, whether a short story or the long absorption that is a novel. I tell young writers that it's a failure of your own vision—vision of what you are alone in exploring—to seek the inevitably different vision of others, who of course are mentally rewriting the story as they would have it. The man, Reinhold Cassirer, with whom I shared all the other part of my life, and my publisher, both of whom have always known there was a work in progress, if in different understanding, have always read the novel or story only when it was complete. I am the one who must see where there should be changes.

What book made you want to be a writer?
I didn't "want to be a writer." I just wrote from the age of nine. Reading, reading—the only way to become a writer, forget about creative writing courses—led me to use the wonder that is the written word in my urge of discovery that is life.