Writing is a lonely business and writers are usually plagued by insecurities. First there is the desire to be published and the crushing disappointments of facing rejections. Then, when published, come the doubts about whether or not anyone will buy your book and if so will they enjoy it? Next are worries about getting further commissions, and even when you have successfully had published a series of books the insecurities continue with each new novel - is this one as good as the previous one or better? Will the reviewers like it? Will the readers enjoy it? Therefore, a new archive of letters by Iris Murdoch which reveal this renowned writer's insecurities is reassuring to writers and is no surprise.
The correspondence between Iris Murdoch and French novelist Raymond Queneau spans 29 years and sheds new light on Murdoch's insecurities about her ability as a writer.
One of her early works featured a "bogus scholar" and another idea for a novel is cribbed from a book about telepathy which she eventually abandons.
The Telegraph states, "The letters reveal a woman riddled with self-doubt who was at times filled with "hatred and contempt" for her prose and wondered if she would "ever write something good". Recognise that feeling?
She was thought to have attempted between four and six novels before her first book, Under the Net, was published in 1954. Most writers experience many false starts and often write for years without publication, learning their craft and finding their style. Iris Murdoch looked to Queneau for intellectual stimulus and practical help. It's good to have a mentor in all walks of life, including writing.
She talks about the difficulty of judging her own work and her suspicion that what she has produced is "worthless." Again, many of you reading this will identify with the sentiment.
In her letters she says, "While I am writing it, it's always surrounded by such an aura of creative aspiration & joy, clairvoyance and what not, it seems better than it is. Then afterwards the light is withdrawn & it seems quite dead and worthless. Just now I'm still in the clairvoyant stage & knowing the secrets of the seas."
Reading about Iris Murdoch's insecurities will, I hope, help many writers, both published and those seeking publication, feel that their own doubts are quite natural and come with the territory.
You can read the full article here. Iris Murdoch's early works and her struggle to 'write something good' revealed: