Yesterday, the BBC’s long-running arts program Imagine… profiled best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin as he embarked on writing another novel. It was a fascinating, honest and intimate portrayal of being a writer: the struggles, the processes, the hard work and the fear.
Even Successful Authors Struggle, Same As You
One of the best things about the program was how honestly it looked at the life and work of an author, even one as successful as Ian Rankin. His best-selling books, particularly those featuring infamous detective John Rebus, have made Rankin a multi-millionaire. Yet, he doesn’t look it, and doesn’t act like it, and no matter how much money he makes, the process remains the same. Creating a novel is always a struggle, we all get “the fear” and worry that our work isn’t good enough, even someone like Rankin who has been writing a novel a year for over twenty years.
If I’m lucky I get one good idea a year, but if you’re a novelist one good idea a year is all you need.”
Another thing I particularly loved about the program was how it looked at the normality and mundanity of Rankin’s writing process, from the way he collects newspaper cuttings and hand-written notes into a green manilla folder (which he looks through every December to find the idea for his next novel), to him taking a physical road trip (rather than going online) to fact-check and find those little details that will enrich his novel.
Writing is not always magic. When it is going well, it sometimes feels like magic, but the reality is that it is hard work, hard work, hard work.
An Inspiring Yet Unglamorous Portrayal
The program is available to watch (and please, please do) here on the BBC iPlayer site, and will be available for the next couple of months. If you live in the USA or elsewhere, and are unable to view it, there are several workaround options, or you can download the global iPlayer app for iPad and iPhone.
Did you watch the program? What did you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image courtesy of the BBC.