Getting into writing – an interview with Jason Jackson

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Jason Jackson’s prize-winning writing has been published extensively online and in print. So far in 2018 Jason has won the Writers Bureau competition, come second (for the second year running) in the Exeter Short Story competition and had work short-listed at the Leicester Writes competition. His work has also appeared this year at New Flash Fiction Review, Craft and Fictive Dream. In 2017 he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

What got you interested in writing?

Reading other great writers from a very young age, thanks to my mother’s love of literature and my father’s gift of his old copy of Catcher in the Rye. I always thought I’d be a writer, I just never got around to actually being one. And then one day, when I was well into in my thirties, I attended a conference and heard Birmingham-based novelist Jim Crace speak about fiction. That night I went home and wrote my first serious short story, much too late, and just in time.

Tell us a little about your chosen genre.

I don’t think my stories have enough similarities between them to fit a particular genre. I certainly don’t think about genre at all, when I’m reading or writing. Good writing is good writing. The Big Sleep isn’t crime fiction; it’s just a great novel.

What are your happiest memories in your writing career?

The private moments. Reading a draft story back and realising it’s accomplished what I wanted it to. There’s a very particular, selfish kind of satisfaction that comes with that.

How do you handle success and failure?

With the understanding that both are fleeting, and therefore not worth getting too worked up about.

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

One of the things I’ve realised is the importance of downtime. Mostly, when I’m “exhausted” and my “fingers ache” I don’t write. I think. I read. I note down a few ideas in a notebook, perhaps. I listen to music, or just do other normal, human stuff. I don’t feel guilty about downtime from writing anymore. No one ever wrote anything worth anything when they were feeling guilty about not writing. I have confidence that, soon enough, I’ll feel the quick pull of an idea, and I won’t be “exhausted” anymore.

image 2 jesus house

What is your advice to young and new writers?

Five things:

  1. Find someone who is not a blood relative or in love with you, and get them to read your works-in-progress. Make sure they understand the importance of honesty.
  2. Read as many short stories as you can, and while doing this have a notebook and a pencil handy so that you can note down anything and everything that you like and don’t like about the story. Understand this is how you learn.
  3. Select a period of time for which you will stop drinking/taking drugs. As well as the resilience you’ll develop from sticking to this, you might also find that you become more clear-headed, creative, focussed, aware, awake, positive and productive. You will certainly find the idea that creativity is somehow reliant on drink/drugs is a myth.
  4. Buy a camera with a viewfinder (for the visceral connection with the machine) and read as many books about photography as you can (including Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll and The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer.) Not only will you become a better photographer, your writing will improve like you wouldn’t believe. (The images included with this interview are my own.)
  5. Make the decision that you are not going to stop writing, no matter what the consequences of this decision are. Once you know you’re in it for the long game, it becomes much more manageable.

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

Both. The medium is not the message, or at least not always.

Do you blog?

Used to. I’m in the process of changing my poorly-maintained blog to a more conventional website. Life (or at least mine) is too busy for blogging.

Do you self-publish?

No. I’ve never felt the need. But I don’t have a problem if others do.

If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.

I’m active on twitter @jj_fiction , which is where I post links to anything I might want people to read, at least until my website is in a better state.

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