Paul Theroux: “What’s the Best Writing Advice You’ve Ever Received?”

From a post on headlined “Paul Theroux on Writer’s Block and the Books He Loves to Reread”:

What time of day do you write?
I write every weekday morning until lunchtime, when I am fresh. And often in the afternoon away from my desk—scribbling at the beach. And sometimes in the evening before dinner.

How do you tackle writers’ block?
Odd image “block and tackle”—yes, I’ve been stuck at times but I’ve felt that perhaps it was because I had nothing to write, no thoughts in my head, which is often the case—blocked writers might consider that: maybe you have nothing to say. In fiction, I’ve been stranded at the end of a chapter, say, and I think, “What next?” I usually go for a walk or a bike ride, and then I sit down and squeeze it out.

Which books do you return to again and again?
Heart of Darkness, Death in Venice, Madame Bovary, Molloy, Elizabeth Taylor’s (English writer) short stories, as well as VS Pritchett’s, Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World and a lot of the books I mention in my anthology The Tao of Travel.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

“Copy the whole thing out in long-hand.”

What was the first book you fell in love with?
Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West—brilliant, satirical, original, strange.

Paul Theroux’s new novel, Under the Wave at Waimea, is available now.

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