Happy Birthday, Ngaio Marsh, born 23 April 1895, died 18 February 1982
- Why do you want to become an author? I will accept only one answer. If it is because you feel you can write better than you can do anything else then go ahead and do it without frills and flourishes. Stick to your present job and write in your spare time: but do it as if it is a whole time job.
- You must be able to write. You must have a sense of form, of pattern, of design. You must have a respect for and a mastery over words.
- Please don’t entertain for a moment the utterly mistaken idea that there is no drudgery in writing. There is a great deal of drudgery in even the most inspired, the most noble, the most distinguished writing. Read what the great ones have said about their jobs; how they never sit down to their work without a sigh of distress and never get up from it witout a sigh of relief. Do you imagine that your Muse is forever flamelike — breathing the inspired word, the wonderful situation, the superb solution into your attentive ear? … Believe me, my poor boy, if you wait for inspiration in our set-up, you’ll wait for ever.
- We worry and fumble and rehash. At two o’clock in the morning we get marvelous ideas and at eight o’clock the following evening we recognise those ideas for the nonsense they are. We have awful sessions when nothing goes right, and brief but blissful sessions when everything seems to go well.
- We do not wait for inspiration. We work because we’ve jolly well got to. But when all is said and done, we toil at this particular job because it’s turned out to be our particular job, and in a weird sort of way I suppose we may be said to like it.
- Above all things — read. Read the great stylists who cannot be copied rather than the successful writers who must not be copied.
- You may be able to write a novel, you may not. You will never know until you have worked very hard indeed and written at least part of it. You will never really know until you have written the whole of it and submitted it for publication.
Marsh was a New Zealand crime writer who is best known for her creation, Inspector Roderick Alleyn, a gentleman detective. She is known as one of the ‘Queens of Crime’ along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham.
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by Amanda Patterson
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