Why do you write?
It makes me happy. I forget that I’m depressed or anxious when I write; that I have often debilitating mental health problems; that I am a recovering drug addict struggling to deal with big, sad, adult stuff. I write about my life and the people in my life, and the people in my work are like angels to me. It’s a warm, spooky feeling – close to what I imagined God to be when I was a child – the ‘I’ in my work ceases to be me, my girlfriend ceases to be my girlfriend, and so on; and if I could describe the way I visualise the characters in my work I would say they appear to me as almost blindingly bright people-shaped lights, they really are quite pure, and it feels important to help them.
What books do you read?
I have a reading diet that works for me: A new poetry collection, an older poetry collection, a new novel, an older novel, a collection of short stories, a biography about a writer/artist, a book about writing, a book about another kind of art (such as painting), some philosophy stuff if I can, and a book about something spooky, paranormal or historical. I like to have at least a dozen of these kind of books on the go, if I can afford it.
What inspires you?
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
I knew I wanted to be a writer because it was the only thing that truly engaged me. Everything else felt far away and quite alien, but writing centres me. I started writing when I was a child, around ten years old, and poetry was a secret thing I picked up in high school. It helped me deal with the abuse I suffered. It brought me closer to people, but at the same time it helped me escape them. I left high school and worked in factories. There wasn’t much hope for me, and no expectations for me to succeed at anything. I think I was eighteen when I knew. It stopped being a secret thing. I started showing people my notebooks and they encouraged me to pursue writing.
How do you deal with rejection?
Just fine. It’s always one person. At least that’s how I think of it. So this one person says NO and that’s okay. At some point someone will say YES. It’s actually quite easy. It’s not like falling in love or anything.
Who are some writers you admire?
This makes me pretty anxious to be honest. If I miss someone out I would have to slam my hand in a door or something, guilt is something I struggle with every day. I admire so many writers and there are a lot of beautiful poets who have helped me in a personal way. Right now, I’m high on a poem called ‘First Date’ by Bob Hicok. I came across it while I was flicking through magazines in a book shop, waiting for a friend. A few days before I discovered this poem I had tried to take my own life, so it really punched me in the chest. I needed it. It’s a special piece to me right now. I couldn’t afford to buy the magazine, so I took a photo of the poem on my phone. I read it every day. It’s not the best poem in the world or anything, it just has most of the ingredients I personally look for in a poem, by which I mean it inspires me to be a better writer. It has this lovely, simple otherness to it.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
No. I would describe myself as an artist who writes. Writing works for me, but I play with everything else, as long as I have access to those other mediums. It comes down to money. If I could afford to, I would do all the things. I would make films, music, paint huge pictures, make clay models, sculpture, installations, performance based stuff, photography, everything really. Writing is quite cheap. So that’s my best thing right now.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Stop being so hard on yourself.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
No, not really, just do what makes you happy and hopefully that happiness will rub off on the world. Be a good person.
What is your writing process?
My life is too chaotic for me to have any kind of process. I let my thoughts and feelings pass over everything around me until it feels like there could be a poem. I worry people must think I’m rude, since I’m not totally present all the time, always thinking. I write a lot of notes on my phone and always keep a notebook nearby. There has to be an urgency, a need to write, otherwise it feels wrong. Once it feels right, I need to wait until there’s an opportunity to try and get the poem down. This can become frustrating and it’s difficult to be around me when I can’t write, I complain about everything and sleep too much. I need a desk, a chair, a computer and a room to myself, since I don’t have these things I try to work on my girlfriend’s laptop when she’s not using it for her own work. I don’t write much by hand because I have bad knuckles, punched too many walls. Dumb stuff like that. My girlfriend lives in London and my parents have a spare room I stay in from time to time, so I move between the two places. After a period of homelessness it’s nice to have a bit of security, to know there are safe places I can stay. It’s rather cramped though, wherever I am, so it’s impossible for me to find a routine. Once I have a poem down I will tinker with it at every available opportunity, if I’m well enough. Writing makes me happy, but it also makes me quite ill. It takes me a while to come down from the high of being creative. I have to be careful. There’s a truth that we must remain faithful to if we want to succeed in anything. Find that truth and make it work for you. It can be scary at times. I’m basically looking for redemption.