Skip to content
Advertisements

Salman Rushdie On His Writing Process

Over the years, I’ve posted many excerpts from The Paris Review’s interviews with famous authors.

I love these interviews because they not only focus on authors and their novels, but they also dig into the writing process itself. And I’ve always enjoyed reading how world-class novelists go about their jobs. It’s fascinating.

Let’s take a look at Salman Rushdie’s writing process:

INTERVIEWER

Can you talk about your procedure when you sit down at the desk?

RUSHDIE

If you read the press you might get the impression that all I ever do is go to parties. Actually, what I do for hours, every day of my life, is sit in a room by myself. When I stop for the day I always try to have some notion of where I want to pick up. If I’ve done that, then it’s a little easier to start because I know the first sentence or phrase. At least I know where in my head to go and look for it. Early on, it’s very slow and there are a lot of false starts. I’ll write a paragraph, and then the next day I’ll think, Nah, I don’t like that at all, or, I don’t know where it belongs, but it doesn’t belong here. Quite often it will take me months to get underway. When I was younger, I would write with a lot more ease than I do now, but what I wrote would require a great deal more rewriting. Now I write much more slowly and I revise a lot as I go. I find that when I’ve got a bit done, it seems to require less revision than it used to. So it’s changed. I’m just looking for something that gives me a little rush, and if I can get that, get a few hundred words down, then that’s got me through the day.

INTERVIEWER

Do you get up in the morning and start writing first thing?

RUSHDIE

Yes, absolutely. I don’t have any strange, occult practices. I just get up, go downstairs, and write. I’ve learned that I need to give it the first energy of the day, so before I read the newspaper, before I open the mail, before I phone anyone, often before I have a shower, I sit in my pajamas at the desk. I do not let myself get up until I’ve done something that I think qualifies as working. If I go out to dinner with friends, when I come home I go back to the desk before going to bed and read through what I did that day. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is to read through what I did the day before. No matter how well you think you’ve done on a given day, there will always be something that is underimagined, some little thing that you need to add or subtract—and I must say, thank God for laptops, because it makes it a lot easier. This process of critically rereading what I did the day before is a way of getting back inside the skin of the book. But sometimes I know exactly what I want to do and I sit down and start on it. So there’s no rule.

Most authors work hard, really hard. And most of that work happens in a quiet room, by themselves, with no fanfare.

That’s what Rushdie is getting at in his first answer above. No, he’s not always at parties, and, yes, he actually spends a lot of time working on his craft.

What stands out to you about Rushdie’s writing process?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Advertisements
12 Comments Post a comment
  1. M. W. Morrell #

    Thanks for the post! Great insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 1, 2015
  2. And it’s daily. Not when the inspiration starts.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 1, 2015
  3. No matter, underimagined thank God you have laptops.

    Like

    September 1, 2015
  4. Like

    September 1, 2015
  5. I like how he emphasizes letting things go in his writing. Many authors I know say they maybe write a little scrap and stow it away, or maybe they write a whole story and only a paragraph is good, so they keep it. I’m starting to be more of the mind that we should let the scraps go. It feels like the scraps should make up something much larger, but in the end they’re sort of reminders of things you should sift through for treasures. As I writer, I can say it doesn’t always work that way.

    Like

    September 1, 2015
  6. larry #

    DISCIPLINE

    Like

    September 1, 2015
  7. Stephen McDaniel #

    I note that Rushdie tends to revise quite a bit as he goes along rather than just getting words on paper until he reaches ‘The End’. The more I write, the better this works for me. But I add one caveat: I have to have some sort of structure before I can get anywhere. Without structure, a novel will sag, lack suspense, become flabby on the first draft. This is very time-consuming and difficult to fix, and frequently requires throwing out up to half of what you’ve written. So, rather than waste half my time, I have a more or less detailed plan before I begin. It changes, often quite drastically, but it changes within a structure and doesn’t fall apart.

    Like

    September 1, 2015
  8. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    How Salman Rushdie writes: “I don’t have any strange, occult practices. I just get up, go downstairs, and write. I’ve learned that I need to give it the first energy of the day, so before I read the newspaper, before I open the mail, before I phone anyone, often before I have a shower, I sit in my pajamas at the desk.” Read on for more…

    Like

    September 1, 2015
  9. Reblogged this on Flynn Gray.

    Like

    September 2, 2015
  10. I agree with ‘Larry’ Discipline, discipline and discipline. He writes every morning. Good habits.

    Like

    September 4, 2015
  11. So, I’ve never read any of Rushdie’s books, but his whole writing process stands out because, most times, people think you have to conjure up something before putting a pen to paper and simply writing. Yeah, writing is a gift, but its also a discipline. I guess to be successful at it you have to do it every day. Personally, I don’t have much patience for rewriting when I write, not even ‘underimagined’ things, so that’s why Rushdie will always be better than me 😀 . LOL!

    Like

    September 5, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Salman Rushdie On His Writing Process | dwaipayankabir

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: