Francesca Marciano is a documentary filmmaker and the author of novels Rules of the Wild: A Novel of Africa (1999), Casa Rossa (2003) and The End of Manners (2009).
Why I write
For me writing it’s an urge to make sense of loose strands and fragments – the archeologist’s obsession to dig up broken pottery in order to figure out the vase behind it. It’s also a bit like tidying up one’s desk, it makes me feel like I’ve put things in the place where they belong. And in doing that I also hope/wish that the reader will come along on a similar journey: a dot-to-dot trajectory that might reveal a bigger picture of some kind.
Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
When I’m working on something I sit in front of my computer at least for five or six hours every day. But I still keep tinkering with words and ideas while I drive or stand on line at the supermarket, so in a way my mind is always there, with the work.
Worst source of distraction?
The endless Googling.
Best source of inspiration?
Good art in general but mostly, other writers. Long walks help too. My mind seems to float in a freer place, where unexpected things come up out of nowhere and resolve the problems without me having to do anything.
How often do you get writers’ block / doubt your own ability?
Every time I set out to work on a new idea I look at the stuff I’ve written in the past and I can’t believe it was me writing it. And every time I am done writing I feel like it’ll be the last thing I’ll ever write. I try not to fret about it too much, though. I’ve learned to sit and wait.
Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
Alice Munro, Cormac McCarthy, David Sedaris, Annie Proulx, Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, Philip Roth. David Demby and Anthony Lane’s film reviews in The New Yorker. Alan Ball and his team of writers on HBO.
Two that immediately come to mind are My Traitor’s Heart by Rian Malan and The Country of My Skull by Antje Krog. Both about South Africa. But in an hour I’ll think of entirely different titles.
It keeps changing. Right now Alice Munro.
The book you should have read but haven’t?
The Iliad and the Odyssey from beginning to end. And David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.
You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
Well done. I wish I could write that all over again (with a few tweaks here and there).
Does writing change anything?
Absolutely. It gives meaning to the apparently insignificant, it illuminates the blind spots. It connects us.