Life Lessons: Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue, 42, is an Irish-born Canadian writer and literary historian. Her fiction includes Life Mask and the international bestseller Room, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes. Her latest book, The Sealed Letter, was released last year.
1. Do what you love. Find meaningful work (ideally as a job, yes, but it can be a hobby) and guard it fiercely from all the other claims on your time, attention and emotion. I have a New Yorker cartoon that shows a mother driving a car full of kids with a bumper sticker that reads: "I'd Rather Be Working", and it makes me chuckle every time I see it, although my son, having learnt to read, finds it slightly insulting.
2. Dig deep. Researching my novels - which range from 18th-century London to a 21st-century locked shed - has taught me that almost any subject is dull at first glance, and fascinating if you ask enough questions. This holds for everything from tourism to dinner parties (always interrogate the person you're sitting beside in indecently probing detail).
3. Say you're sorry. I wish I could remember what famous person wrote: "If in an argument with your spouse you discover that you are in the right, apologise immediately." At the end of the day, getting along matters more than whatever the point of the argument was. Saying you're sorry is the oil that keeps the wheels moving.
4. Make the pie higher (to quote a famous blooper of George W Bush). Love is not the ordinary kind of pie that feeds only a few and leaves them fighting over the crumbs, but the magic kind that replenishes itself. So the more people in your life who need your love, whether friends or lovers or children, the more reason you'll have to get out of bed in the morning.
5. Read. There are few miseries that can't be escaped, at least for an hour, by immersing yourself in a really complicated 19th- century novel.
Updated: January 4, 2012 04:00 AM