Anita Desai was asked at the Ubud Readers and Writers festival what advice she would give to writers.
Actually it is a stupid question, because ask any successful writer for advice and they will tell you exactly the same thing. And you've heard it so many times before.
(Hey, it's not just me nagging you, wanna-be's!)
In her exact words though:
Read, read, read a lot. Read voraciously. Be discriminating about what you read, because if you read rubbish, you tend to write rubbish. Read with a critical sense. It is always important to be a tough critic of everything.She also talked about her own writing process at Ubud. She says that she rarely knows how a book is going to evolve, and writing is a process of exploration where characters can take you in unexpected directions. ("I wish it wouldn't happen sometimes," she says.) When she wrote Baumgartner's Bombay, she says, she did not know who the murderer would be until she wrote the scene!
She revises a great deal - each book 3-4 times:
Until I recognise a theme and everything has fallen into place. I am always intersted in reducing, refining, distilling.To be a writer, she says, you need to become senstitive to language:
...like a musician with an intuitive feel that this word has resonance but that one does not.About writing practice she says:
You are not always working on a book or short story but you should be constantly scribbling and using words to keep that practice alive.She also says that you can't teach writing, but creative writing courses are valuable because they give students space and time, which is essential.