A L Kennedy – what good writing is

Listening to “The Verb” BBC Podcast (episode 3 Feb 2018) on writing, yesterday, on a bus, I was astonished and captivated by comments on writing, by A L Kennedy:



What a writer should write:

“From the writer’s point of view, if you’re not saying what it’s burningly necessary for you to say, absolutely to the best of your ability so that you’re creating a generous act then – YOU’RE NOT WRITING.  You really are just typing.”


What a reader wants:

“And from the reader’s point of view, if the writer isn’t saying something that is better than the best thing I could think, and isn’t saying something that is better than the most extraordinary day I’ve had yet, and that isn’t producing something that’s as good as the thing that changed my life – I want you to aim at changing my life because otherwise you’re wasting my time.” 


What art is supposed to do:

“Because other people out there have and can – and that’s what art is supposed to do! and if it doesn’t keep doing that, then we slip back to being on the back foot and we have to keep justifying and apologising: “oooh it’s conceptual”.  No no no – your job as the artist is not to be conceptual – it’s to give me the thing. I can do concept, I can do a half-assed pathetic poem, you give me the blowmeaway poem.”


A good poem makes you punch the air:

“You don’t need to explain it.  You don’t need to say “Oh poetry needs.. blah blah blah….”good poetry makes you punch the air. ”


When it comes to editing your work: that big scarey moment when your hand hovers between what you have made and the waste basket (whether real or digital onscreen), these words above can help decide what meets the right standard.

Creative Takeaway

This comment is from the end of the podcast: I thoroughly recommend writing it out and sticking it above your creative work area.  I am.  Whether your artwork is with words or pictures or performance, this is a call to excellence.

This podcast is no longer available online – I just have it because ages ago I subscribed to the Podcast and this episode was languishing in my “yet to listen to” list.



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