Zadie Smith’s 10 Good Writing Habits

Photo credit: Jack Nickerson

Zadie Smith, born Sadie Smith on October 25th, 1975, in Brent, London, England, is considered one of the most influential writers in England and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is of Jamaican and English descent. Her two younger brothers are the comedian Doc Brown and rapper Luc Skyz. In Zadie’s youth she tried tap dancing, theater, and performing as a jazz singer. Her Alma Mater is King’s College, Cambridge. Smith first wrote a collection of short stories known as The Mays Anthology, leading to a publisher’s interest in her writing and her first published novel, White Teeth. Her work was praised internationally, adapted to a television show, and won awards. To date, she has published four more novels: The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW, and Swing Time. She is married to Nick Laird and has two children. She resides between New York City and London.

Here are her 10 good writing habits as presented in The Guardian:

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticise your “vocation.” You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle.” All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand, but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.
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