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Jeffers encourages readers to do something that scares them every day.

Here's how to see how much you've spent on Amazon in your lifetime

Determined to overcome all her worst fears, Power made a list of everything that scared her and resolved to confront one a day. Among a series of nail-biting adventures, she skydived out of an airplane in the dead of winter, and performed a live stand up comedy routine in a London nightclub, which she says terrified her.

The book forced her to confront her increasingly unmanageable debt. She says it was a painful but eye opening experience: her money woes were a lot bigger than she realized. The journalist still loves self help books, but no longer considers them a cure-all. Power, now 41, learned that no amount of self help can make up for the love of family and friends, who she acknowledges she had a tendency to push away during her journey to become a more perfect someone.

I need people, it turns out. We all do. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. Don't go near the online bookies — unless it's research. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg "horse", "ran", "said". Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It's research. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions.

Then I decided to call them the Commitments. If it still doesn't work, throw it away.

It's a nice feeling, and you don't want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need. That stuff is for agents and editors to fret over — or not. Conversation with my American publisher. Me: "I'm writing a book so boring, of such limited commercial appeal, that if you publish it, it will probably cost you your job. In the early s I went to live in Paris.

Book Of A Lifetime: Old Masters, By Thomas Bernhard | The Independent

Since then I've developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity. The biggest regret of my writing life is that I have never kept a journal or a diary. If it's a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It's only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don't follow it.

She was in denial about money

If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. You've got to stick at it. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.

Before you continue...

Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn't matter how "real" your story is, or how "made up": what matters is its necessity. Why not? The thing that annoys this weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. And no one had to die.


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It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free. Substituting "then" is the lazy or tone-deaf writer's non-solution to the problem of too many "ands" on the page. I still blush when I come across it. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn't spin a bit of magic, it's missing something. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life. Don't let anything else interfere. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they'll know it too. Read it pretending you've never read it before.

Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.

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Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving. That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.

So write your story as it needs to be written. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. They may not be what you want to end up doing but you have to master them in the meanwhile. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to.

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Words are the raw material of our craft. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world.

Respect it. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.


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Nothing that happens to a writer — however happy, however tragic — is ever wasted. However, don't automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else — they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.