Writer’s Desk: Listening to Your Wife

Writers aren’t known for their eagerness to take advice. Some work well in collaborative environments where their text is ever being reworked by colleagues (newsrooms, say). But in the main, their tendency is resistance to outside meddling. It’s a common side effect of the stubbornness needed to sit down at that desk every day, even when the sun is shining and the last thing they want to do is grind out another couple pages of that damn novel.

The_Buried_GiantIt was refreshing, then, to read this in a recent profile of Kazuo Ishiguro, whose newest novel The Buried Giant is hitting stores soon. According to Ishiguro, he asked his wife to read his first pages:

“She looked at it and said, ‘This will not do,’ ” he recalled. ” ‘I don’t mean you need to tweak it; you need to start from scratch. None of this can be seen by anybody.’ “

He put the book away and didn’t go back to it for six years. It’s impossible to say, of course, whether Ishiguro’s wife was correct. But what’s almost certain is that more writers would be better off listening to that trusted confidant when they say, albeit lovingly: Don’t show this to anybody.


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