Stumbled across this press conference featuring William Faulkner from May 20, 1957. You may listen to it or read the transcript at The University of Virginia.
Questions put to the author of As I Lay Dying include inquiries about advice to young writers. Though the question is about young writers, Faulkner’s answer is to any writer, regardless of age.
Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner, you may have touched on this previously, but could you give some advice to young writers? What advice would you give to young writers?
William Faulkner: At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that—that the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to—to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is, to be—to curiosity—to—to wonder, to mull, and to—to—to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got that or not.
Unidentified participant: How would you suggest that he get this insight? Through experience?
William Faulkner: Yes, and then the greatest part of experience is in the books, to read. To read and to read and to read and to read. To watch people, to have—to never judge people. To watch people, what they do, with—with—without intolerance. Simply to—to learn why it is they did what they did.
Faulkner’s advice to writers, summed up:
- Understand that talent matters little, it’s the practice that is important.
- Train yourself, practice writing.
- Practice infinite patience.
- Ruthlessly edit.
- The most important thing is developing insight and curiosity.
- Develop insight and curiosity through reading and observing people.
It’s great to know. What do you think?