Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sunday Morning Musing: Hilary Mantel, Booker Prizewinner

Congratulations to Hilary Mantel who won this year's Booker, the only woman to have won the award twice (once for her book 'Wolf Hall', a historical novel about Cromwell, and this year for the sequel 'Bring Up the Bodies.')

The New Yorker this week has an interesting profile on her (Read entire article here). While reading it I was struck by her description of the writing process, how she finds an aspect of it unreliable - that mysterious creative aspect that all of us writers treasure, but are also unsure of:

"I don't think one ever quite learns to trust the process. I feel, What if I wake up tomorrow and I can't do it anymore? I know I'll always be able to write, in the sense of having a robust style that's sufficient to the occasion, and I know that books can be got onto the page by craft, but the thing that makes a phrase that fizzes on paper - you always fear that may not be there any longer, because, after all, you did nothing to deserve it. You did nothing to contrive it. It's just there. You don't understand it, it's out of your control, and it could desert you."  

'the thing that makes a phrase that fizzes on paper...' That inexplicable spark that comes and goes and illuminates a piece of work is held highly by all writers. And it's true that all writers - even successful award-winning ones - are aware of its power and afraid that it will desert them.  

Part relief to know this! 

~ Siobhán


  1. It's always surprising that even successful writers have this fear that their 'gift' will disappear, that thing that sets them apart. Some of us are still waiting to bring forth the 'fizzle'. Thanks for sharing the article--I hadn't read it yet, but the fact that she won a second Booker prize is why I ordered her first book (which frankly I'd not heard of) and am most curious to see how she handles Cromwell as a leading character. I have such a negative image of him that it will be intersting to see if she can make him 'human' to me. But, nonetheless, interesting to see the doubt in an obviously fine and successful writer. I'm sure her sharing this fear will make others feel more at ease about their doubts as well.

    1. Yes, it really surprised me that even successful writers carry this doubt around. But you see that creative 'fizzle' - it's so mysterious and 'out of our control', that inexplicable creative genie that turns up out of nowhere (and goes just as quick) - that it's easy to doubt we could lose it. But I don't think we ever really can.
      You must tell me what you think of the books - they're 500 pages plus it seems!

  2. Wow, that quote got me thinking. "It's out of your control and it could desert you"---EEK! Guess that's what makes so many of us passionate about it!

    1. Hi Christina and welcome!
      As I said to Mary, I don't think it ever will desert us - well, unless we stop putting in the work! So long as we turn up to the page every day and do the 'manual' work, the 'fizzle' will follow when it sees fit I believe.
      Thanks for your comment!


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