As an aspiring writer I find that sometimes my optimism can wane and doubts start creeping in. Writing is a lonely and difficult job and I often wonder whether I am on the right track. During these moments of self-doubt I find it useful to talk to fellow writers, sharing experiences, insecurities and ambitions. This week I turned to fellow writer, Peter Vaughan. He has been writing for longer than me and agreed to answer a some questions for me, providing a very interesting insight into the mind of a fellow writer:
Tell us a little about yourself Peter:
I’m a writer and musician from South London. Self-taught, and unpublished in any regard.
What kind of thing do you write?
I write short stories, anything between one paragraph and thirty thousand words. Poems now and again.
When did you first seriously pick up a pen and start writing?
During college, when I began to read great books. I kept a few diaries and wrote a lot of lyrics.
Why do you write?
Because words translate abstract thoughts into concrete forms, images into symbols, and I find that translating my life in order to understand it or to explain it to others, or for its own sake, comes most naturally to me.
Where you do find your inspiration?
Often in better writers than myself; if you are ever lost in your own life, they can show you some part of the world worth heading into, some unsearched nook. The harmony or disharmony between nature and humanity seems infinitely interesting too.
What are your ambitions as a writer?
To colour my style with the influence of as many geniuses as I can find, and then drain that colour out through an image, something simple, something that will force me to forget those influences and write as myself.
Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, what is it?
I always have a few stories that are waiting for me to forget them if they are not good, or if I am not ready to write them, or to complete them if I can. I have just finished something about family and am trying to piece together a comedy about the debauchery of my last year.
Which writers inspire you?
Orwell makes me crave clear sightedness and honesty, and Hemingway honesty and courage. Dostoyevsky for divinity and Camus for earthliness. For humour, which is almost the most important feature, Douglas Adams, P.G. Wodehouse and Vladimir Nabokov.
What are you reading at the moment?
I have just put down Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse, a philosophical and beautiful journey into the Dionysius/Apollonian split. I read Flush by Virginia Woolfe earlier this week, a biography of a dog owned by a 19th century female poet.
Do you set aside a certain amount of time to write or do you write when the mood takes you?
Routine is the best way to ensure that I can write. If I wake up every day and dedicate two hours in the morning to writing, and perhaps another three or four later on, then it all comes very easily. I cannot write and work a full time job, or wake up at someone else’s house. I write very quickly on holiday, having no worries about making dinner or going to bed.
Do you find it difficult to give up ownership of your writing to a reader or do you enjoy letting others read your work?
I would sincerely hate to be misunderstood. I like to read what I’ve written to people, but I will only be truly happy letting people read my work when I am a much better writer than now.
How do you like to unwind when you aren’t writing?
Music is my first love and film my third. People are the meaning of life, and I spend much of my time in the company of others.
What advice would you give to those thinking of picking up the pen to write?
I’d share Orwell’s rules for writing, which are imperfect, as all advice is, but get one thinking:
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
A big thank you to Peter for answering these questions and for allowing me to post them on the blog for others to read too. Writing is a very personal thing and so I take my hat off to anyone who is brave enough to let others enter their world. I wish you every success with your writing, Peter, wherever it is that you chose to take it.