Ildefonso Falcones: “Good writing is based on hard work; it has nothing to do with inspiration”

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One of the most well-known writers from Barcelona at both a national and an international level, Ildefonso Falcones, was at UIC Barcelona on 30 May. He gave a talk about the difficulties of being a writer, the difficult world of publishing and life beyond literature. The Paideia group, consisting of Humanities students, managed to bring the writer of Cathedral of the Sea to our university.

Ildefonso Falcones: “Good writing is based on hard work; it has nothing to do with inspiration”

Falcones, holder of a degree in Law, did not come to give a talk, but instead, in his own words “to hold a dialogue with the audience”. The lawyer who is now a novelist said: “for years I wanted to be a writer, but my mother told me that first I would need to study something and then I could do what I liked. It’s the best advice I’ve ever been given”. Falcones himself talked about the difficulty of dedicating yourself to writing. It took him five years to write his most successful novel, Cathedral of the Sea, and it took three more years after that for it to be published. He stated that “good writing is based on hard work, it has nothing to do with inspiration”, thus moving away from the romantic idea many people have about writers. He left his job as a lawyer and now writes exclusively.

He also described the complicated world of publishing companies to students, professors and university staff. Despite the fact he is considered to be one of the best contemporary historical novelists in Spain, Falcones has had a lot of his work rejected, work that publishers may not even have read.  “What is essential is that someone with credibility in the company does like it”, said the author from Barcelona.  He also defended the positive side of working with an editor, a specialist who works with you and helps you to improve.

When he was asked about how to learn how to write Falcones criticised the negative opinion people have of Writing Schools in Spain, which in contrast are seen as very normal in the US, in the same way that “painters go to art school and musicians go to the conservatory”.  He also underlined the fact that it is extremely important to read a great deal.

Finally, he revealed that writers in reality are not like the people we have mythologised, who live in solitude and write whenever the inspiration takes hold. He pointed out that novelists are normal people, like anyone you can see on the street, people who mostly have families and combine their job with writing.