“Well, well, well. Fancy meeting me here.”
I speak to the empty chair across from me. I’m not crazy. I am aware that no one is actually there, but this is the premise of Empty Chair Interviews in its most literal form, and I want to plug the shit out of this project.
I’ve met a number of interesting characters in this series so far… some real, some fictional, but this may just be the most surreal yet.
This time I’m Interviewing myself to to tell MY story, and who better to tell it but me?
Let’s get on with it.
“When did you first become interested in writing?”
Classic opening… simple, but full of open-ended potential. I get up and move to the other chair. That’s right, I’m committed to this thing. I’M. NOT. CRAZY!
“I guess I’ve always liked to write. I remember being a kid and writing short stories about some of my favourite fictional characters. I always showed them off to my parents and grandparents. I still have some of them in fact. They’re utter rubbish of course, but back then I always received the support I needed to keep going.
Naturally as I grew, my stories became more complex and stylized, and I began creating original characters of my own. Something was still missing though. I found that no matter the topic, setting, or theme, I just wasn’t experienced enough yet to make my stories convincing, even to myself. I needed proper inspiration from life.
To quote Jai’s English teacher:
“Don’t try and write anything if you haven’t experienced it yourself.”
“It’s damn true. I saw in my characters a part of myself, and I didn’t like them. They, like me, lacked experience.”
I return to the interviewer’s chair. From now on, just assume that I keep doing so between my questions and my answers. I’m a busy man and don’t have time to waste words on chair-movements.
“How did you find your inspiration?”
“I decided that I needed a whole new perspective on life; something radically different and unlike anything else most people even dream of.”
“I moved to China.”
“Why the fuck not? It was a place I knew next to nothing about, and the opportunity presented itself – teach English in China… perfect! If I couldn’t find my inspiration in Australia, then I would force myself to find it in a whole new country.”
“And did you find it?”
“Yes. Not at first though. The first 6 months were tough. I was dealing with culture shock; trying to settle-in with my new job (and failing); and getting used to being independent and self-sufficient for the first time. I was miserable and lonely.”
“Then I met a girl.”
I roll my eyes at myself.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but I had never had a real relationship before… not like this at least. She was the inspiration I needed all along. I wanted to tell her what she meant to me, but I’ve never been much of a talker… I lack the charisma. But I found a way through poetry.”
“I found my voice.”
“I hope this girl knows how much of an impact she had on you.”
“She certainly does. I was always keen to share my latest poems with her and she always loved them. Looking back at my first few attempts, I’m reminded of the short stories I wrote as a kid. They were dreadful, but once again I had the support to keep going, so I did. This time though, I had my inspiration.”
“My poetry was real and it showed.”
“So I got better, and better. I experimented with various styles until I found the one that was most ME, and kept at it.”
“How would you describe your style?”
“The same way I would describe how porcupines make love… CAREFULLY.”
I laugh at my own joke. I know it’s lame, but goddam it’s my favourite, and fuck you if you don’t think so too. This is my interview damnit and I’ll make all the lame jokes I like. Anyway…
“To state it simply, my style is metered-rhyme. I know a lot of modern poets aren’t fans of rhyming poetry, preferring free-verse instead. It almost feels like rhyme is a dying breed. I’ve even encountered a poet who described rhyme as ‘poetry for kids’. Maybe it is, but personally I find it challenging and fun, and I feel that’s where my voice is strongest. I still like to mix it up though.”
“You should never limit yourself to a single style.”
“Have you always been a fan of poetry?”
“Absolutely not! Back in high school, I hated poetry. I felt it was lame and infuriatingly difficult to analyse. Obviously I don’t feel the same way now. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the genre.”
“Perhaps it’s a symptom of growing the fuck up.”
“How have you developed your writing over time?”
“Once I was confident enough to share my poetry with others, I stumbled across a website, Allpoetry.com. Allpoetry gave me a space to share my work and receive honest feedback from other like-minded poets. It was wonderful!
Eventually someone contacted me about featuring one of my poems in a magazine. I couldn’t have been more excited to have my own poetry be featured in a publication.”
“It was my dream to be published.”
“I quickly ordered myself a copy of ‘Intangience Volume 1 Issue 4’ and even framed a copy of my first published poem on the wall. I was so proud.”
“Have you had many poems published?”
“Oh god, yes! It could never stop at one. Once you get a taste for publishing your own work, you want more, and more.”
“It’s like a drug.”
“It may sound self-serving, and it is, but few things are more satisfying than sending your own work out into the world. To pretentiously quote a far better poet than I…
“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1874
“What advice can you give to aspiring writers?”
“Don’t take yourself too seriously. Always be open to criticism. I once offered a critique of a very talented (and trained) writer who insisted that my opinion was only valid if I myself was a widely published author. That is of course bullshit!”
“I’m an amateur! I freely admit it.”
“Amateurs like me have a great deal to say, and their opinions matter. I’m proud to share my work with my fellow amateurs. These are my peeps. That’s why I started ‘Amateur Publishing’ – to avoid pretentious snobs, like that guy, and to give other amateur writers the chance to see their work in print. It’s also a great way to promote my own work.”
I pat myself on the back for steering the conversation so subtly towards my publishing group. (#shameless self-promotion)
“At the end of the day though, write for yourself. I find writing to be very therapeutic. When I’ve had a bad day, instead of just going to the pub for a drink, now I go to the pub and write… while drinking. It’s a great way to vent one’s frustrations and always makes me feel better.”
“Writing is about internal exploration.”
“It’s a way of understanding who you are. The more I write, the more I learn about myself, and I’ve grown rather attached to that guy over the years.”
“What is your typical source of inspiration?”
“Everything and anything. I’ve written poems on just about every topic I can think of, from hot and steamy butt-sex, to pizza (yup!).”
“Poetry is life and life is poetry.”
“It’s often when I least expect it that inspiration hits. It might be a single line, or a cool idea, but I write it down and come back to it later. I keep a little folder full of half-baked poems. Some of them eventually make it into a completed piece, while others remain in perpetual poetry-limbo.”
“Have you considered other forms of writing?”
I wink at myself (somehow) for leading so effectively into the next topic. Damn, I’m good…
“Yes! Poetry will always be my first lover, but I’m fast becoming a polygamist (weird analogy, right?). My long-term goal has been to write my fantasy novel, ‘The Chronicles of Thorgrim’.
The origin of my novel idea goes years back to when I first encountered my problem with inspiration. I would tell myself the story over and over, but it just never worked when I tried writing it down. I’ve since given it another shot, and it’s going pretty well this time around.
I’ve actually already published the story as a two-part series of poems. I found that writing it first in poetic form was a unique way to tell the story, and also to plan the basic outline for when I was ready to write it as a novel. I’m even incorporating some of those poems directly into the novel. I think it’s going to be a really interesting piece of work when it’s done.”
“Where do you see your writing taking you in the future? Do you think you could make a career out of it?”
“Honestly, probably not. It would be great to make some money off my work, but that was never the point, and I have to be realistic. I’m writing for me and I feel it’s made me a better person as a result. That’s where it’s taken me.”
That about wraps it up, I think. I shake hands with myself and thank me for my time. I don’t actually have to go anywhere since this is my home, but I (as the interviewer) leave the house symbolically.
I’M NOT CRAZY!!
– Empty Chair Interviews