Thanks for the opportunity to write about writing. I’ve enjoyed seeing Zeroflash grow since 2015, providing a safe place for members of the flash community.
How did I get into writing?
I was an anti-social child. I couldn’t interact with the same species, so I had to find something else to do.
Other kids played Catch and Hide and Seek.
I ran away and hid from other kids.
I disappeared into a world of surreal plays and poetry.
The only people who shared my writing were pen pals. It was a precursor to an on-line writing community, but with envelopes, postage stamps and a two-day time delay.
My parents never saw anything I wrote. They probably would have gone batshit crazy if they’d discovered the stories featuring fantasies about David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Stevie Nicks, laced with a smattering of misspelt words (deliberate of course).
When I was fifteen, my folks systematically searched through letters and documents in my bedroom. I think they were looking for evidence of sex, drugs and sausage rolls. (I’d told them I was vegetarian, and they were always trying to catch me out).
Like many teenagers at the time, I liked pop music. I’d critically appraise song lyrics and write my own. Back then you had to either buy ‘Disco 45’ magazine or listen to the radio and write song words down.
My sister told me the olds were freaking out. They thought I was planning a murder someone after discovering the incomplete lyrics to Rod Stewart’s The Killing of Georgie Part I and II.
My parents thought I’d written it. Bless them. They obviously had high expectations.
They never found my stories. Thank God.
What keeps me writing?
It’s a bit like a skin disease, something unsightly and covered in boils. You get intense relief if you can reach the spot and scratch the crap out of it.
How do you measure success in writing? At the Hagley Writers’ Institute we were encouraged to submit to competitions, on-line and print publications. I have a spreadsheet collating submissions, acceptances, rejections, rejections, rejections and rejections.
It’s good to hone your writing, but the process can be soul destroying.
A different measure of success is shared human experience. When you encourage a new writer to get high on words. When you discover something you wrote made someone cry (in a good way).
Another bonus is researching a setting and making new friends or visiting new places.
Sometimes you learn about something you never would have otherwise, like the Chernobyl disaster for Leaving Chriyat or Humbucking pickups wired in parallel for Teriyaki Sandwiches and the Girl with Sepia Hair.
I don’t dwell on failure. You can usually find something positive even in horrible writing.
I cannibalise parts of my first novel for short stories. The novel was called Hidden Truths, and it was truly terrible; but without that first novel, there can’t be a second or third or fourth.
There are many tips by far more experienced writers around. This one was doing the rounds again recently: rules for writing fiction.
I’m not fond of rules. For every rule it’s easy to find work by a competent writer that contradicts it. This can confuse new writers. So if I’m teaching, I won’t say ‘don’t do a, b or c‘, but ‘here are good examples of how to do a, b and c well’.
Read a lot.
Don’t forget the joy in writing.
Many thanks for this opportunity, David.
You can read my work here.