Inside the mind of a writer

Miriam Margolyes is an actress I have watched and been captivated by for decades. miriam-margolyesShe is of course the essential Dickensian character and she was perfect as a JK Rowling character too, and has been so in many other roles, both on TV and radio. I have often marvelled at her wonderful fluid and flexible voice on radio, and how incredibly versatile she is.

In her most recent appearance on our TV screens, investigating places round the world to retire to, the sheer roguish power of her personality is compelling. She slightly – and for some, greatly – outrages and offends us, yet I love her. She gives us permission to be who we are, whatever that may be, and she is a perfect example of being just exactly who she is, in total honesty and openness and freedom.

Despite the fact that she subverts the supposed ideal of feminine attractiveness in this very deluded society we live in, I think she is beautiful. She has eyes which shine with character and understanding and life. She is an intelligent and inspirational actress.

What does she have to say to us as creative writers? I read in an interview with Ernest Hemingway that as writers we have, above all, to be true to ourselves; and our most essential piece of equipment should be a “shock-proof shit-detector” (Hemingway’s words). A writing mentor once said to me, “If you’re going to be a writer you have to come clean with yourself.” For some that can be a lifetime’s journey. I do believe that as writers if we are deceiving ourselves in any way at all, it will work its way into our writing. And another quote is also compelling: “be sure that your audience will find you out.” Any writer can attest to that from reading their Amazon reviews.

But before you ever get to Amazon reviews you must deal with comments and feedback on your ms from beta readers and professional editors. Every  criticism on your writing must be taken as reflecting on the work itself, and not on you as a person – something else that is very difficult for notoriously thin-skinned, sensitive writers.

What do you think?  Do you relate to this at all? I’d welcome comments from fellow writers.






Comments on: "What a Great Actress Has to Say to Creative Writers: Miriam Margolyes" (10)

  1. Great post, I would recommend the Magic Lessons podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert on this subject. It has some great conversations with authors who talk about this subject and lots of other subjects. All of which were fascinating.

  2. I’ve always loved her smile! And yes, I agree – it’s so hard not to take criticism of our writing (no matter how constructive) personally. I struggle with this myself. Thanks for the reminder that we all go through this!

    • Yes it’s helpful to know we’re not alone in being hyper-sensitive about feedback on our work! That’s why I think it’s always best to get strangers to comment on your books (professional editors ideally) rather than friends. But it is difficult to find beta readers who are not known to you / or are not friends!

  3. angelanoelauthor said:

    I heard a wonderful quote from Glennon Doyle Melton. She said you can either be a creator or a lawyer, not both. A creator creates, a lawyer defends. The creators job is to offer something to the world, not to defend why he or she did it or explain why it’s important. Today, a group of thoughtful women are coming over to my house. I’ll serve them food and mimosa’s and ask for their feedback on my novel. Nothing they can say will hurt my feelings, because it’s not my job to defend the work, it’s my job to make it better-to put the best possible creation into the world. That’s how I feel today–though I know I’ll need to be reminded. 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment Angela. It sounds as if you have a really good attitude to receiving feedback. Also I like the idea of having a group of beta readers round, to tell you what they all think of your WIP! For my novel A Passionate Spirit, it would have been hard getting all my beta readers together in one place and at one time but they all independently gave me different and helpful views on my ms, which I took on board for my revisions.

  4. I really like Miriam Margoyles too – she’s so ‘herself’. It seems to me it takes years, though, to develop that kind of confidence as a writer. I am still waiting!

    • Thank you for your comment Fran. Yes, the kind of confidence I’d like, as a writer, is to write a novel straight off, one draft only, no rewrites, and it’s immediately snapped up for a commercial publishing contract!

  5. veronicabright103 said:

    I agree that we have to be able to take criticism objectively, but this can be difficult if we’re not very confident to start with.
    Sometimes we can get to know ourselves through our writing, and this can make us more confident.

    • Thank you for your comment, Veronica. What you say is very positive and helpful. So even as we write, though we may not feel confident at the time of writing, we should be encouraged to carry on and complete the work regardless, because often we can learn new things about ourselves from reading through the complete ms. This certainly tunes in with something I observed in another blog post, about writing: I feel sure that often authors don’t even know what they’re trying to say, or what their theme is, until the work is finished – and then clarity comes. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, as I work to complete the first draft of my new novel!

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