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You have to be solitary

3 November 2014

‘That thing of treating the writer like a famous boxer or a rock star has harmed writers, because one of the ingredients most essential for writing is that you have to be solitary. You can't be gregarious. You can't do both. The brain won't take it. That is why poor Mrs Woolf went off her rocker. Too many people, too much outside life.

If I see too many people, I lose myself. I lose my truth. And my dedication to what I have done for 55 years and want to do for whatever time is left. I also become secretly impatient, because of all the gifts in the world that I value, after good health, imagination is the thing I value most. Well, you don't get a glass of imagination out there at parties.'

I am lucky that I have not yet been in a lunatic asylum. I would not call myself stable. Maybe some writers are. Maybe they are not the writers I want to be.'

Edna O'Brien, author of The Country Girls and Country Girl (an autobiography) in the Independent on Sunday