Happy Birthday, Andrea Barrett, born 16 November 1954
- Writing is so personal. There’s so much of us in our fiction, whether we draw on the facts of our lives or not. Our hearts and spirits are in there—everything that’s important—it seems like this should be enough, but apparently it’s not.
- I became much more conscious of the technical aspects of writing. There’s a good deal you can do unconsciously, without really knowing what it is or how you’re doing it, and I had learned much of that before I began to teach. But teaching forced me to articulate back to people what I was doing, and in the process to grow clearer about it myself. For someone not naturally a clear thinker, this is quite useful.
- For writers like me, who read a lot of older fiction, there are webs and nets that connect the old and the new.
- Slowly, I began to relearn something I’d once grasped but had lost sight of: that emotion—that central element of fiction—derives not from information or from explanation, nor from a logical arrangement of the facts, but specifically from powerful images and from the qualities of language: diction, rhythm, form, structure, association, metaphor.
- My early drafts are staggeringly bad. I’m not being falsely modest here, it’s just the way I work, and I’ve had to accept this about myself.
- I don’t want to go as far as saying that there’s no point in writing a novel that’s just about the exploration—some of those books are very good—but for me there was no point in doing a novel that simply replicated the shape of an expedition.
- I think sometimes people misperceive me as a self-taught writer, but that’s true only in the bluntest sense. I’ve learned a great deal from teaching.
- We write in response to what we read and learn; and in the end we write out of our deepest selves, the live, breathing, bleeding place where the picture forms, and where it all begins.
- Sometimes I think drawing up a really good reading list is the best thing that I can do for a writer. Anyone who’s going to be any good will learn from that. It’s the one thing you can give other writers that’s universally helpful. Once they learn to see what other writers have done and how, they realise they can steal those techniques. I tell them, Yeah, steal that. Go there, and make it yours.
Barrett is an American novelist and short story writer. Her collection Ship Fever won the 1996 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.
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