Kazuo Ishiguro on Not Taking On a Creative Project Lightly

IMG_2140As the year comes to an end, and those of us who live by words take stock of our own, why not also take advice from the very best? Emily Temple gathers up a nice stash of writing advice from Kazuo Ishiguro, beloved author of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go and our most recent Nobel Laureate in Literature.

Excerpt from Temple’s post on  LitHub:

Everything is built on the early part of the process. It’s important to be careful about what projects you take on, in the same way that you should examine someone you want to get married to. It’s different for everyone: should it be based on your experience, or do you write better at greatest distance, do you write best in a genre? Don’t take on a creative project lightly. —from an interview with Richard Beard.

That is up there with the best advice I’ve ever heard! Everyone always asks where writers get their ideas from. The truth is, ideas are cheap. Not every project that wafts through the mind will turn out to have staying power. Choose carefully.

I read The Remains of the Day in one big gulp years ago, and I still go back to it every now and then. It’s a beguiling dream that takes the reader through the narrator’s sad and lonely life. At the same time, it’s a critique of an unjust society that at once demands and ridicules his servility. And in the end, it connects the domestic world to the state of the larger world, to evils perpetrated there and to unwitting collusion with those evils. It’s a book that raises more questions than it answers and isn’t that the whole point? I also love that every book of Ishiguro’s is different. Each one is an experiment. Each one leaves its traces in my mind long after I’ve put it down.

This Globe and Mail interview offers a more personal view of a writer whose books I’ve long admired. Excerpt:

“I apologize to Margaret Atwood that it’s not her getting this prize. I genuinely thought she would win it very soon. I never for a moment thought I would. I always thought it would be Margaret Atwood very soon; and I still think that, I still hope that.”

And how about this? Ishiguro had been invited to attend the opening night of legendary Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa’s acclaimed production of Macbeth after the Nobel news broke, but decided not to go.

“We just had to cancel that because there will be Japanese press there and we just thought it might pull focus,” he says. “I thought it wouldn’t be right if people were trying to interview me about the Nobel Prize when they should be remembering the great Ninagawa.”

Isn’t that generous, courteous, humble, self-effacing, kind? Traits that are all in danger of going extinct in our time. Choosing carefully may be good advice for life as well.

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