Skip to Content

Comment from the book world in August 2020

August 2020

'When I was five, I thought I was a writer'

10 August 2020

‘We say to girls, "you can have ambition, but not too much" When I was five, I thought I was a writer. I didn't just want to be, I thought I was.

One of the things of being pregnant and having a child was that it was a reflective time for me, and I am happiest when I'm creating. I am slowly coming back, but haven't quite settled. When my writing is going well, it's fully absorbing, so it's not "When do you find the time to write?" It's "When do you find the time to take a shower?"'

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, and very successful TED talks, including 'The Danger of a Single Story', in the Sunday Times magazine

Writing in a lockdown

3 August 2020

'Well, the first six weeks I was not doing any writing at all. It was all about making sure the kids were all right and everyone was in a good mental state. Then, I thought maybe I can work for an hour or two a day and it was really hard work getting back in the groove. But, hey, the books aren't going to write themselves. The way I think about it is, what if I got struck down by plague or lightning? I'd rather finish the book than not...

There were a lot of small absurdities amid the psychological horror of the pandemic - people fighting over supplies in the grocery store, subway drivers having to breathe in the same air that their passengers were breathing out. That's the stuff of plague fiction. Then, there's the perversity of coughing in someone's face to ridicule them because they're wearing a mask and you're not. These are the kind of irrational things that, as a writer, you couldn't really think up. The strangeness of human nature outdoes you.'

Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad, The Nickel Boys and seven other novels in the Observer.