Readers don't care too much about your education or your fine words.

Louise Dean

Louise Dean

You may be using your best cutlery, the silverware that's kept in a satin-lined box, but it's still just 'tools'.

What's on the plate is human feeling, what T.S. Eliot calls 'the infinitely suffering thing.' How you get there is up to you, but sometimes the tools you use can be distracting, noisy, obtrusive - they say too much about what you're lucky enough to own, distance you even from the reader.

Many of us as Thoreau said 'lead lives of quiet desperation' and since he died in 1862, the scale of that desperation is more evident than ever, multiplied and intensified, regardless of advances in our communications 'tools'. Because of them, perhaps.

The tools ain't it.

If someone is bleeding in front of you, you don't fuss about finding shiny new tools, you get down on your knees and attend to the wound.

There's one quality that you need as a writer to be a good writer regardless of any facility with words.

It's the ability to imagine the world without you in it.

That is to say unless you can imagine - as in assemble via your senses and construe via your craft - your own demise, life after your death, your writing is mere empty words.

Unless you can imagine how talk of trade deals, chicken crises, pop tunes and pretty faces, 'the news', rolls on inexorably without you, after you, and people traipse to work with their jackets hanging off them long after you're gone, then you're not much use to anyone as a writer.

I think a writer should be of use, you see. But if you're a bit clever, it can take you too long to see that the point is to serve, not to be clever. A good servant disappears.

So, if you can't see your death, life after you, and beyond, you won't write a good book. You just won't have the imagination for it, nor the compassion necessary. You have to not only be able to erase yourself, but to want to. We have to remind ourselves daily as we sit down to write; this is the platform from which I'm leaving. Then wait for the train.

Time to disappear.

After all, most poetic irony for the poet is that you're not needed, yet you're vital as an instrument that tells, measures, reads change even by small degrees. A barometer for humankind.  You're no-one and everyone when you give us our common reading. The world doesn't need you at all and yet it does so long as you can allow it does not.

That's the deal. It's a great deal. It's the only deal that's on offer. Take it.

Louise Dean is an award-winning author published by Penguin and Simon & Schuster and nominated for The Dublin International Literary Award, The Guardian First Book Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. She is the founder of, an online creative writing course which teaches people how to write a novel in ninety days.