Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Don't Quit Your Day Job

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Time, more than anything else, is a writer's most needed resource. You simply can't write anything without a long stretch of time to do it in. Though they sometimes get mistaken for income supplements or even bonuses for simply being the kind of person who gets off on putting words on paper, the real purpose of writing grants are to help writers freeze time for a while.

Which is why jobs are often seen as anathema to the writing life. (Well, that's one of the reasons, anyway...) And it's true that, for a lot of imaginative writing, a demanding day job can act as a frustrating road block to creation.

There are writers, however, who are reluctant to sever that link with the non-literary world. Including, apparently, Egypt's bestselling author...

From the Globe and Mail:

"CAIRO — To make an appointment to see the bestselling author in the Arab world, you have make a booking between the checkups and teeth whitenings at Alaa al-Aswany's dental practice.

The man who wrote The Yacoubian Building, which broke sales records in Egypt and the Arab world before spawning the country's biggest-budget movie ever, no longer needs his day job to help him pay the bills. But for Mr. al-Aswany, dentistry and novel-writing are linked, the former helping him find and develop the characters for the latter.

So whenever he's not circling the globe on a book tour, he shows up for work at his private clinic in the upscale Garden City neighbourhood of Cairo and takes mental notes as he cleans the teeth of the countrymen he writes so unsparingly about.

'Both medicine and literature are dealing with the same issue: the human being,' the genial 50-year-old said in an interview in the operating theatre of his two-room clinic. He listed other medical professionals, including Anton Chekhov and Émile Zola, who doubled as successful novelists. 'If I like, I can quit dentistry, but I will not. My clinic is my window through which I follow Egyptian society.'"

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Nathan Whitlock

Nathan Whitlock is the review editor of Quill & Quire magazine. His writing and reviews have appeared in The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Maisonneuve, Toro, Geist, Saturday Night and elsewhere. His novel, A Week of This: a novel in seven days, was published this spring by ECW Press.

Go to Nathan Whitlock’s Author Page