19/ Reading and Writing

These days I have time to read.  Anything that flows past: annuals, manuals, The Financial Times,  a graphic novel...  Doing so has helped me to write.  I’ve just finished a memoir by Ngúgí wa Thiong’o,  Birth of a Dream Weaver: a Writer’s Awakening, about his time at university set against the politics of E. Africa in the 60s. I noted this passage:

-     In an entry for November 5 in the diary I had started and then abandoned, I had written down an observation on Virginia Woolf’s work habits.  “Just learnt that Virginia Woolf would write one passage 15 times.  Seems my fault.  I am so impatient.”  Today I have reduced this to a formula that I tell any who asks me for tips:  Write, write, write and write again; you’ll get it right. “

I wondered how many times I had read or heard this same advice.  But even the mighty Clive James admits to an occasion when finding the mot juste can be tricky.  Writing about the recent shocking attack on our common humanity in Manchester:

-       One of the reasons for my slowness of composition is that, in a crisis of this kind, the words get too sticky with significance to be easily handled.

And then he succumbs like any other writer,

     When I have this much trouble writing, I tend to lapse into a proven set of procrastination measures that become more desperate as the clock ticks.

As mentioned I learn a lot from reading.


Ngúgí wa Thiong’o,  Birth of a Dream Weaver: a Writer’s Awakening  (London: Harvill Secker, 2016)


The sponsored athletes just before the Dingle Marathon. 

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