Getting into writing – an interview with Bart Van Goethen

Bart Van Goethem - writer

Dear Zero Flash reader,

My name is Bart Van Goethem. I am a writer, drummer and addict (Real Racing 3). My goal is to play my way through life. So far, so good.

Find Bart on Twitter @bartvangoethem

What got you into writing?

That’s actually a very good question. I grew up in a working class environment. Every winter was a struggle to heat our little shack with coal – sorry, I just made that up. Fact is I lived in a world without books. But there was this radio and tv magazine called HUMO. It was legendary for its   sharp journalism, absurd cartoons and almost literary music reviews. The chief editor was equally legendary for his wit, brevity and his Sahara dry sense of humour. He became my god.

The magazine had a section called Uitlaat (Outlet): a page of jokes, poetry and social commentary, sent in by readers. When I was 18 I started writing and submitting short, funny bits that were often not longer than one sentence long. They got published on a regular basis throughout the 90s. Every Tuesday, the day the magazine appeared, I raced to the shop to buy it and see if I was in it. That was my first taste of trying to create an impact with a few sentences and feeling the kick of getting published.

What inspires you?

Daily life. I see and/or hear things, I give them a twist, dramatize them, like any good old drama queen, and sometimes that leads to a story.

What makes you write even when the nights are long, your fingers aches and your eyes droop?

To be honest, that’s been a while. In my first year of writing flash (2014) I was prolific, mainly thanks to weekly flash fiction comps Flash! Friday and The Angry Hourglass. Both no longer exist. The advantage of writing a lot is your brain gets into a permanent writing mode. You develop a sixth sense for stories. I just had to look at a vase and a story about a vase would pop up in my head. Figure of speech. In 2015 I started a new job that demanded more energy. I wrote less, though my productivity was still okay. But since 2016 I’ve been writing, submitting and getting published less and less. In February 2017 I started playing Real Racing 3. It has become an obsession that takes up most of my  time in the evening. So far I’ve got two stories published this year. A measly two stories. In writing, as in life, you get what you give.

Are you a traditionalist (print) or a new-wave (ebook)?

I’m 45, I’m old school, I love print.

Do you have a publisher or did you go the self-publishing route?

In 2012 I self-published Life’s Too Short For Long Stories, a collection of mainly one sentence stories. I thought I was original and brilliant. Of course I was neither. It was only afterwards that someone told me about Hemingway’s famous six word story. I didn’t know squat. Anyway, when I had my manuscript ready, I realised it wasn’t very mainstream, so I decided not to wait for a publisher and chose to self-publish. A nice experience, but my conclusion was, and still is: if you want to reach a wide audience, you need distribution. Unless you have the material to become an Amazon hit.

What do you aspire to achieve if you haven’t already and how can ‘we’ help?

Ah, but “you” can’t help. Writing is probably the loneliest job in the world. It’s just between you and an empty page. You can pick up some tricks along the way (we all know the lists of tips), but if you don’t sit down every day and write, rewrite, rewrite, submit, get rejected, listen to the feedback, rewrite, rewrite, submit, get rejected again, draw conclusions about your abilities, your voice, the genre that suits you best, rewrite, rewrite, submit and get accepted, then you won’t get very far.

But to answer the first part of the question: I’ve always wanted to write the ultimate novel about love, but it’s clearly not going to be for tomorrow.


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