How to be a writer

50 South Hill Park,
London, N.W.3.

Dear Lorraine,

O.K., so here goes!

The first bit of advice I'd give to anyone aspiring to be a writer is to start by deciding what else he/she is going to be? It always saddens me to hear a talented young person saying: "The only thing I want to do is to write" -- because this is virtually a guarantee that this is just the one thing they won't do.

Writing (I'm talking here about fiction, of course -- text-books and such are another matter) is, and must be, an off-shoot, an out-growth, of a full and interesting life, lived among all sorts of tiresome and uncongenial people, and beset by all the problems, difficulties, pressures and pre-occupations that real living involves. The best writing is, and always has been, squeezed out somehow from the turmoil of a demanding and absorbing life -- happy or miserable, in sickness or in health, loved or hated -- it doesn't matter, so long as you are right there, in the thick of it.

Peace and quiet is fatal. Tuck yourself away in a country cottage, with a private income and freedom from all interruptions and distractions -- and you've had it! Sorry, but you have!

So, hurl yourself into your own particular sea of troubles whatever it may be -- a boring job, distracting friends, a frightful family -- and think what a lucky, lucky chap you are, with all this to get to work on.

Celia Fremlin

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