Today Kazuo Ishiguro, most famous for his novel The Remains of the Day, won the 2017 Nobel Laureate in Literature. As a writer who has maintained an elegant and highly refined writing style while crossing various fiction genres, including fantasy, drama, and touching on science fiction in Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro has proven to be an icon of his time.
As an amateur writer who took creative writing class eons ago and remembers the adage “write about what you know,” I was fascinated to read that in Ishiguro’s first novel, A Pale View of the Hills, he chose to write about unknown subject matter and it proved to be very successful for him in terms of creative energy. Today’s Slate article on the writer commented on this subject:
When Ishiguro began his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, he’d planned to make it about a young underclass Cornish mother, the sort of person he met while working a social service job with the homeless in West London. (He also did a pre-collegiate stint as a grouse beater for the Queen Mother at Balmoral Estate in Scotland.) The writing only took wing when he reconceived his narrator as someone less familiar to him: a Japanese housewife. In the writing, he told the Paris Review, “I discovered that my imagination came alive when I moved away from the immediate world around me.” He abandoned the shopworn writing-program mandate to write what you know.
I’m always looking for new writing exercises and the idea of finding some uncharted territory, or a completely foreign type of character, to write about really struck me as a great way to overcome writer’s block.
In an interview with the Swedish Academy, Ishiguro also commented on the award coming a year after Bob Dylan’s last year, saying “It’s great to come one year after Bob Dylan, who was my hero since the age of 13. He’s probably my biggest hero, I do a very good Bob Dylan impersonation, but I won’t do it for you right now.”