Discipline and honesty, not talent

Anuk Arudpragasam (born 1988) is a Sri Lankan Tamil novelist. His debut novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the German Internationaler Literaturpreis. His second novel, A Passage North, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. [Wikipedia]

His interview on the BBC World Book Club was broadcast in January, 2023.

Writing is a little different from, for example, athletics or, let’s say, singing, or different kinds of entertainment—dance—in the sense that I don’t really believe there’s much talent required for it. I really believe that the two things that are necessary are discipline and honesty. Discipline is a fairly easy virtue to understand, but by honesty I mean there are so many ways in which one lies to oneself when one writes. One lies about why one is writing; one lies to oneself about the quality of what one is writing; one lies to oneself about other texts that one is reading. It’s such a personal and intimate thing, reading and writing . . . there is room for so many self-deceptions to surface and to play themselves out. And so I think that if somebody is really, really honest about a sentence, a paragraph, a page, or a text in general, in all the ways one can be honest, I think that really goes a long way towards being a writer.

[Interviewer: The one thing that amazed me was your saying that you don’t think you need any talent to be a writer.]

Yeah, I really don’t. I think there are so many people, so many writers, who are false to themselves, that simply being truthful, simply being honest goes a long way.