Zadie Smith on Reading and Writing
I don’t write that much. There are people who write every day, and it’s part of their life, and I go for months, and recently years, without writing fiction, for example. For me, it is not a matter of daily survival. And I’ve heard writers speak of something that they can’t help but do. The only thing I can’t help but do is read. If I don’t read every day I’m just completely doomed. I think the more effective question for me is what does reading do for you because it’s reading that I am really addicted to. Writing is a kind of outgrowth of that passion.
OK, what does reading do for you?
I’m just completely addicted to it. Nothing will stop me doing it. I realize now with my baby, I’m breast feeding her and all I do is read all the time. My husband reminded me, “You know you have to speak to the child occasionally” – because otherwise, she might never learn to speak! She’s used to just sitting on my lap and then when I turn a page, she jerks. That will be her childhood memory: this page-turning noise. So I don’t know, it’s something that allows me not to be myself, or allows me to be in other places among other people, and I get great joy out of good sentence making. Nothing makes me happier. I usually spend the mornings reading and then I do my best to write something in the afternoon. The afternoon thing almost never happens, whereas the morning thing always happens.