On Kazuo Ishiguro’s Writing Method

On Kazuo Ishiguro’s Writing Method

I had come upon this article by DailyMail as it was tweeted out by a JF Penn.  The article itself was written by Kazuo Ishiguro describing how he reserved four weeks to the craft of writing with the objective of finishing a novel.  During those four weeks, he does nothing but write between 9am to 10:30pm.  He has timed lunches and dinner breaks.  His wife does all the cooking and housework.  In result, he hoped to finish his work and fall into a mental state where his fictional world had become more real.  The article went on to describe what I feel are very slight mental ramifications to this method, how he prepared before going into the four weeks, and the sort of research that went into the making of his book, The Remains of the Day.  

I don’t believe I follow this method to the extent that Ishiguro does.  For my last novel which I have yet to publish, I found myself out of a job but with a sufficient enough means to carry myself.  So, I began writing.  Opportunities like this happen more frequently than one would think.  It doesn’t have to be the departure of a job.  For me, opportune times to write happen whenever there’s a drastic shift in my life.  Moving to different places and traveling allows for a lot of these major shifts.  Every time I move to a new place, I get bored after a week or so and begin writing.  Every time I have to go through a career change, I never go straight back into the world of applications and resumes, I go write.  Or, I go edit.  I do something writing based.  When I was in college, I would find that all of my midterms finished during the same week, and I had several weeks to procrastinate until having to study for the final.  During that time I dedicated weeks to writing.  When I graduated, six hours into the day after graduation, I was laying in a bed, thinking to myself, I need to go write.  In result, I went to buy a Composition notebook, found an empty room at the University and began editing the rough draft to my first book, The Creative District.  

Ishiguro stated in the article that he writes straight from 9:00am to 10:30pm.  From what I recall, I wrote what was to be the first chapter of my next book while I was at a hostel in Washington DC, after midnight, while everyone except for the usual suspects were asleep.  I scrapped that first chapter so I don’t know if it counts, but the very next day, having used parts of the chapter I wrote the night before, I wrote what ended up being the first chapter of my book at the same table with people coming in and out of the lobby doors.  When I returned to San Francisco, I spent several weeks working and when I stopped, I spent a week or so wondering what to do with my time.  I eventually started writing again.  It took me a while to get back into the groove of things; I remember waiting until I was fully awake to begin writing which could be anywhere between noon to 2am.  I then would dedicate about two or three hours to writing a chapter or two.  From what I remembered, I was happy just to get two to four pages out.  Some days, which were bombarded by the fancies of others, I was content with simply writing 500 words (a mere page).  It wasn’t until a couple weeks of this that I decided to wake up before 10am and begin taking the whole writing thing more seriously.  As my book began to gain traction and I could see an end in sight, I became more involved in my writing and more connected to it.

Every morning, I began writing.  At first I would attempt to write straight from my laptop.  If when at some point in the day, I stopped, I never fully gave up.  I took what I felt was a step down from the use of a laptop and wrote my chapters in a Composition notebook.  I would take breaks ranging from the need to get outdoor air and to momentarily walk in the sunlight, to the need to walk somewhere and pick up something to eat and bring it back so I could eat it.  Every morning I would attempt to begin writing before 9am and continue to write until some time past 5pm.  From what I remember, a good day had a word-count amounting to over 10 pages (roughly 5,000 words).  I usually landed within the six to eight page range.  Even with four or five pages I was content.  I was just happy to see progress.  Although I say that I tried to stop past 5pm, I usually didn’t.  I continue to ruminate about writing and wrote paragraphs and bits of dialog on a Composition notebook for the next morning.  I outlined what my next day would look like through to-do lists.  In my Composition notebook, after every several pages, I would write all the big plot points of my book that I needed to get to so that I could reach the end of my book.  I always wanted to see the end in sight.

From what I’ve seen on Ishiguro’s Amazon page of Remains of the Day, the book is said to be 258 pages.  I would say that the rough draft of my book lands somewhere around the 200 page mark.  It could be less, it could be more, it could be a lot less; I haven’t counted.  But, once I got into the overall routine of things, I would say that finishing the book had taken me about a month of solitude, much like Ishiguro’s four weeks that he took to create Remains of the Day.

For me, the whole point of dedicating an entire month to writing isn’t about finding the right paragraph or thinking up characters.  There was a time for that and it never is at the point where you’re sitting in front of a blank word document wondering how you’re going to write.  The point of dedicated several weeks to write is to live and breathe the world you’re creating and keep writing words and pages to get as much of that world out of your head and onto paper (or a word document, whatever).

Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana, Slovenia
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