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It's no good starting out by thinking one is a heaven-born genius

5 December 2022

‘If you like to write for yourself only, that is a different matter - you can make it any length, and write it in any way you wish; but then you will probably have to be content with the pleasure alone of having written it. It's no good starting out by thinking one is a heaven-born genius - some people are, but very few. No, one is a tradesman - a tradesman in a good honest trade. You must learn technical skills, and then, within that trade, you can apply your own creative ideas; but you must submit to the discipline of form...

You start into it, inflamed by an idea, full of hope, full indeed of confidence (about the only times in my life when I have been full of confidence.) If you are properly modest, you will never write at all, so here had to be one delicious moment when you have thought of something and know just how you are going to write it, rush for a pencil, and start in an exercise book buoyed up with exaltation. You then get into difficulties, don't see your way out, and finally manage to accomplish more or less what you first meant to accomplish, though losing confidence all the time. Having finished it, you know that it is absolutely rotten. A couple of months later you wonder whether it may not be all right after all...

The most blessed thing about being an author is that you do it in the private and in your own time. It can worry you, bother you, give you a headache; you can go nearly mad trying to arrange your plot in the way it should go and you know it could go; but you do not have to stand up and make a fool of yourself in public.'

Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, in her Autobiography