The most common questions strangers ask after "And what do YOU do...?" or when they're interested in writing. Not because I feel especially qualified to give advice, but because I'm asked for it, and searching for answers is something I can certainly relate to...
How did you start writing?
How do I start writing?
Where do your ideas come from?
What makes someone a writer?
Do writers just write about their own lives?
If it’s autobiography or memoir, obviously yes. If it’s fiction, probably yes and no. Most fiction writers draw heavily from the world around them and heavily make things up at the same time, so the two become inseparable and this question is difficult to answer. Writing about something that’s affected you doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve written about it directly in the way it happened to you. Sometimes too, a writer researches and writes about something as an outsider, which then becomes inseparable from their own life.
Do you need lived experience in order to write about something?
To write fiction or poetry, I don’t think someone needs to have experienced something directly or in the same way. I do think if you’re writing about top-draw feelings you probably need to have experienced some kind of top-draw feeling yourself, or at least informally know someone who has. Similarly, if you’re writing about someone from a minority group (e.g, in terms of race, heritage, religion, sexuality or disability) it helps if you can relate to being in a minority, without necessarily belonging to that particular group. It also depends how important the experience or identity is to the story. I’ve heard people advise against writing about love or grief unless you’ve experienced either, which feels sensible. For journalism or academic writing, I believe the right to speak to vulnerable people or handle certain topics should be earned through maturity and experience; lived or professional.
Do you self-publish / crowdfund your writing? Everyone does now, don’t they?
I want to self-publish / crowdfund my book, can you help me?
How do you know when something you’re writing is really finished?
What kinds of stories do you enjoy?
What's the best / worst thing about writing?
What else are you good at doing?
What kinds of work have you done other than writing and journalism?
“Other work includes”: Being a learning support assistant to children with speech and language needs. Cleaning floors and bathrooms on location for a TV production company. Stuffing envelopes at a tobacco requisites firm. Volunteering in charity shops. Data entry. Babysitting and cat-sitting. Inept youthful stints in retail and call centres. Basically all the usual jobs made up of part-time bloggers, arsey weekend DJs, skint MA students, aspiring stand-ups and homebodies. Including my first job out of university, which was awful but inadvertently led me to some of the most interesting and wonderful people I’ve ever known.
Did you write about Dyspraxia for the Guardian?
What's the best way to get in touch with you?
Will you come to my event / be in my documentary / help with my research?
I’m happy to speak at conferences and panel events related to my work and/or to dyspraxia. My dyspraxia FAQ has some suggestions for running a dyspraxia-friendly (and all-person friendly) event. Where I can, I’m also happy to attend events, help with research, or be in documentaries, but I get more of these invitations than I’m able to fulfil. The more local you are, or the more you can afford towards travel costs, the more likely I’ll be able to attend or take part.