When did you first feel like a writer?
I’ve written short fiction since a child, songs and poetry since my teens, and short commercial animation scripts since my early twenties, but it wasn’t until I decided to write a novel in my late twenties that I considered myself a writer. The routine, maintaining the torrents of words almost daily for a year and seeing my prose develop on the page gave me more confidence in my poetry and short stories. I still didn’t want to share much of my output though!
What’s the most interesting thing that has inspired your writing and what was the result?
I’m consistently drawn to our inner dialogues, and how every person has a multitude of worlds within themselves. The idea that each person conjures dreams, stories, and their own concept of self really inspires me. I suppose it’s the idea of the infinity of individual experience. I’m fascinated by the details that make every perception unique. This theme inspired my first novel, my second (work in progress) novel, and most of my poetry and stories.
Paint us a picture: what does your writing process look like? Do you write in coffee shops at night or only on an old type-writer?
I jot down notes while on walks in the woods – usually in a notes app on my phone or in notepads if I have them with me. Then it’s just finding chunks of time to focus at my laptop and write. Poetry can appear at any time, while for prose I prefer writing first thing in the morning, before the world’s noise distracts me.
Describe your ideal reader: who would your work speak to?
It might be cliché, but kindred spirits! To people who long for connections with others but who might not feel understood. When I connect with a niche book or a writer who doesn’t receive mainstream success, I find it really meaningful that their observations on humanity align with my own, and I’m awestruck that against all odds their ideas found their way to me. In this way, I would love for my work to give people hope that they aren’t alone, and I would hope they might gain some understanding about an aspect of humanity that perhaps hadn’t yet crystallised. I don’t know if I’ve yet written the work that would speak in this way, but I aspire to.
Who’s an author you’ve changed your mind about and why?
I used to think that David Foster Wallace was only for a certain kind of reader: the type who might snootily flaunt their apparent intellect without any tangible insight or reasoning. Then one summer I actually read Infinite Jest… followed by more of his work, and I realised that he offered some of the most insightful commentary of the human condition there is. Some of it is so emotionally heavy it can leave you completely drained. But yeah, once I got over my preconceptions, I was blown away. He was masterful.
If you could interview any other writer/artist, who would it be and why?
Ahhhhh. There are so many options, but with some of my favourite writers I worry we’d have very little in common, so I don’t know if I’d actually like to meet them. One author, however, who does comes to mind is Hari Kunzru. His books are brilliant, and Gods Without Men really stands out for me, but it was listening to his podcast, Into the Zone, that made me realise what an eloquent and intelligent man he is. The research for his books has left him with some truly bizarre and fascinating insights that I’d love to discuss with him.
What motivates you to keep writing?
I want my mind to connect with others. I long for stimulating discussion with my peers, yet the pervasion of small-talk and the dispersion of my best friends around the world means that these discussions are rarer than I’d like. Writing means that I can engage the part of my mind that longs for connection – both in terms of connecting with a reader, and inherently within the writing process, where I’m essentially talking to myself and tend to find the company agreeable. It also motivates me in how it contributes to my mental health. Writing has helped me climb out of severe depression. I hope that more people discover how emptying their thoughts onto the page can help to deal with the conundrum of existence.
How do you deal with writer’s block or being overwhelmed by the writing process?
There are two approaches for me. The first is routine. When I want to complete a project, I make myself write for a set amount of time every day, even if the words are nonsense. If this doesn’t work it means I need a break, and I’ll leave a project for a while. When it’s time to write again, I get back to it. The real question, is how do I deal with writing as a sleep-deprived new father? The answer to which is: badly. Sporadically. Like, my manuscript gathers dust for months at a time. A couple of skinny, silly poems. Loads of made up baby songs. But then switching projects does help – I’m working on a graphic novel with my wife, so mostly structuring narrative and writing dialogue, and the characters are just writing themselves. It’s so much fun. Inspiring myself with a different creative outlet really reinvigorates my creativity, and when those other dusty projects resume, they see the benefit.
Where would you like to see yourself in a decade? A creative writing teacher? As a best-seller?
I would love to have a book published that gains a cult following. The graphic novel probably has the best shot at this, but I’d love for one of my novels or a short story collection to resonate with people. I’d also like to continue using my skills to inspire positive change and environmental action.
What has your work taught you about yourself?
It’s taught me that I consistently long for connection. It repeatedly teaches me that I have new stories and insights when I worry that I’m creatively dried up. It has taught me that I’m a writer. Amongst so many other labels, it’s this label which so beautifully symbolises the pivotal aspects of my creativity and doesn’t feel awkward or ill-fitting.