Zadie Smith’s 10 writing rules

1 When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.

2 When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

3 Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4 Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.

5 Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

6 Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

7 Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

8 Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

9 Don’t confuse honours with achievement.

10 Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

8 Writing Tips from a budding writer

  1. Seek inspiration. Whether it be a long walk by a near by lake, or an excursion through a Moroccan desert, or sleeping under the stars in a remote village at the foothills of the Himalayas. Nature taps into the spirit, it switches on your light bulb.
  2. Solitude. We live on the surface, scatter-brained, clicking from one tab to another. Try slowing down. Try and digest information and experiences, let those information synthesize.
  3.  Become vulnerable, let your self open up to others, discuss your feelings, reach a new understanding about yourself – and new ways of looking at the world.
  4. Meditate, let positive energy flow from your body. It will help with centering the mind and making firm decisions .
  5. Read. Read. Read. Get inspiration from both the great and contemporaries, this helps the mind click into a writing mood, it helps also with mental dexterity, and keeps you young.
  6. Expand your vocabulary not just through reading but also trying
  7. Learn a different language. The novelty of stretching and inverting phrases and meanings, will bring a facility and an added dimension into your written and spoken words.
  8. Write, even when your hand is heavy and your in the throws of a writer’s block. Writing a few hundred words a day  will ensure that you extract ideas daily and give birth to new ideas. No matter how hard won, you will find nuggets in these chunks to save for later.

Paul Bowles – In Tangier

“Like any romantic, I had always been vaguely certain that sometime during my life I should come into a magic place (Tangier) which in disclosing its secrets would give me wisdom and ecstasy-perhaps even death.”

Paul Bowles, An Invisible Spectator – Biography

Writing Routine of Famous Writer’s Series (no. 1): Philip Larkin

“…it’s much better to leave it for 24-hours, by which time your subconscious or whatever has solved the block and you’re ready to go on.”

‘I work all day, and get half drunk at night,’ Larkin wrote in his 1977 poem “Aubade”. A few years years later he described his real life (and not so dissimilar) routine to Paris Review

My Life is as simple as I can make it. Work all day cook, eat, wash-up, telephone, hack writing, drink, television in the evening. I almost never go out. I suppose everyone tries to ignore the passing of time-some people doing a lot, being in California one year and Japan he next. Or there’s my way-making everyday and every year exactly the same. Probably neither works.

Larkin worked as a librarian for almost his entire adult life, realizing early on that he would never be able to make a living from his writing alone. “I was brought up to think you had to have a job, and write in your spare time, like Trollope,” he said. Although he admitted to wondering what would have happened had he been able to write full time, he also thought two hours of composition in the evening, after dinner and the dishes, was plenty: “After that your going round in circles, and it’s much better to leave it for 24-hours, by which time your subconscious or whatever has solved the block and you’re ready to go on.”

My mother’s uunsi (frankincense, sandal wood, incense)

My mother’s uunsi (frankincense, sandal wood, incense)

the smell of crows, omens and ancient gods,
the smell of gold in caves, chiselled numerals
the sublime and the wretched
the rotting fruit, the derelict bridges, moss eaten football pitches.
abandoned cities.

the gold thread of time,
adorning your wrists like gold bangles, like a bridal knot around your waist a heavenly consolation

and you mother, burning

smoke emitted from the caves of history….

On suffering

Why do good things to bad people:

Refrain from harsh judgment it is an uneducated guess, and try to see the world as made up of individual with unique experiences, you don’t know every life as intimately as God does, there is a hidden narrative and a communication between them and God, when God shows his favours to what you deem an undeserving sinner when he saves them, He is teaching them to love, giving them hope while rewarding them for things you don’t know, or failed to imagine. Respect the diversity of experiences and respect the struggle.