Writing Tips from Ian McEwan: Read and Avoid Creative Writing Programs

April 28, 2012 • On Writing

In this interesting interview with author Ian McEwan (Atonement, Solar), the Booker Prize-winning novelist offers advice to aspiring writers: READ. The admonishment comes after he roundly dismisses undergraduate writing programs as “a vehicle for mass ignorance” and “deathly,” which, having attended one myself, I’m in complete concurrence.

McEwan’s observation (like his books) has a bit of a twist beneath the surface. He doesn’t recommend new writers to read simply to immerse themselves in the world of words so much as a means of evading undue influence from those one has yet to read.

As he explains, “If you don’t read as a novelist, you’re liable to be hugely influenced by the writers you haven’t read. It’s a strange, and pernicious, visible and rather mysterious matter that you can be in the grip of writers that you have plucked from the air without fully understand where you got them from. Only by reading can you isolate these sources and at least write pastiche or at least be conscious of what you’re doing.”

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