Hanif Kureishi, who’s a CBE don’t you know, is a writer. A writer of books, plays, screen and films. Basically, all the things. He hosted a creative writing talk at Latitude, I was curious to see if he had anything to add to my knowledge. I’m somewhat of a groupie when it comes to creative writing. I’m always willing to hear about it more than I am willing to do it. (After a car accident, I’ve been depressed.) Kureishi compares writing to a dream, its done best with little consciousness and self-editing. It’s like dancing, singing or sex; it’s an act of doing without over thinking. Like no one’s watching.
You should write like no one is watching too. Especially yourself because we all know we are our worst enemies. A way to practise this is freewriting. A favourite exercise of mine. For those not familiar with it, you simply write solidly never letting your pen leave the page. See a spelling mistake, keep writing. Like to change a detail, keep writing. It’s awfully liberating. It’s an excellent way to spend time with yourself, discovering yourself and your writing style. After all, Kureishi doesn’t think you can teach writing. You can teach organisation and what to reveal when. To be a successful writer, you must be obsessive with your craft.
So what’s the point of writing for Kureishi? He’s been doing it since a teenager, an outlet to escape depression and racism. His whole family are writers and readers, tearing through all the American classics in the blink of an eye. Subject to bullies and meanies, Kureishi wrote and wrote and wrote to try and understand his experiences. Almost like writing a letter to someone somewhere that might understand, like a message in bottle. This discussion got me thinking differently about books, they are letters thrown into the ocean. Books are the first part of a conversation, it’s done its job well if you need to talk to someone about it. This way of thinking can be applied to any kind of writing: books, plays, screens or film. Just like Hanif Kureishi has done.