Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing has been a landmark read in my life for two reasons. Firstly, the book normalized a lot of apprehensions, worries and fears I have as a writer. I don’t think there was a particular statement or phrase that did it. It was a gradual process that started from the first page and still continues.
Secondly, it very forcibly made me reconsider the strong dislike I had for Margaret Atwood, following a rather harrowing experience reading her novel Surfacing. Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead is the book that I reach for, anytime I feel like I need a jolt to get me out of whatever mind block or chaos it is that’s holding me back from feeling better as a writer. It’s the book that tells me that I will be okay.
The first time this realization dawned on me that this book would play an unimaginably big role in my life, I was quite surprised. At no point did I expect to like a Margaret Atwood book, much less have it be my guide. The book is actually a collection of lectures that Atwood spoke on at the University of Cambridge. After editing them, she compiled them into the book, which has 6 chapters with really interesting titles like “Dedication: The Great God Pen” and “Communion: Nobody to Nobody”.
As I mentioned at the beginning, my relationship with the book still continues. I haven’t finished reading the entire book, and I hope I don’t – at least as long as I am a writer. It’s a book that I want to take small bits of inspiration and comfort from any time I want. It’s a book that I hope will always have something to offer me always.