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I like words, though making music is even better. Writing is almost as good as playing the violin.

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I think we all write out of a mixture of egoism and a need to work out how we understand the world – ‘writing as therapy’. Luckily, I have only rarely felt the need to write to fulfil the demands of academia, which are producing vast amounts of ‘writing’ that benefits no one and is a strain on those forced to produce it.

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I have ludicrous erotic dreams about dreadfully inappropriate people. I also dream about crashing the car. I hope these two things are not connected.

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Writing can bring change. I think of myself as an activist writer. I try to act as witness, and convey and interpret what I see.

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My middle-aged dreams are somehow linked to the assorted day-to-day anxieties that come with the territory. When I was young, I had a recurring dream in which a man dressed in black and wearing a fedora stepped out of the cupboard at the end of the bed and stood over me. Years later a psychic told me it was my grandfather, signwriter and poet George Baker, who died when I was eight months old.

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For me Genet’s phrase sums it up: to write is to undergo ‘horizontal vertigo’, exhilarating and perilous, to enter language as adventure. With all that slumbering immensity that is etymology, languages are humankind’s great works in progress. To write is to take up this terrifying and beautiful challenge, in which one must inevitably fail.

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How vast the world’s scale is; what splendour it holds. Is it not our task to respond to it, to answer it, to make designs and patterns of our own? We live so briefly, from one night to another – and, in our life, such light. It passes through us, it gives us the gleam in our words: to write is to make a mirror.

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Because of a profound love of language and what was once a near addiction to the thrill of opening a dictionary. I would look up a word, then study all the words and their meanings on that double page. Often I would happen upon a word that would assist the ending of whatever it was I’d been working on.

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When I was young I tried different things: drawing, painting, music, poetry, short stories, journalism, reviewing, but poetry turned out to be what I was best at.

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I become preoccupied with images and memory pictures. Eventually, if they hang around long enough, these images become the cornerstone of a short story or a scene in a novel. If I did not write, I would never be able to make sense of them.

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