In the third episode of season 4, guests Neil Forsyth and Nausherwan Aziz talk about writing for yourself, confidence and establishing a national football team.
Neil is an author, television writer and journalist originally from Dundee. He is known for creating the sitcom character Bob Servant, as well as being the writer and creator of BBC drama, Guilt (2019). He has won a Royal Television Society Award and a Scottish BAFTA, and been nominated for a Writers Guild Award and an International Emmy.
Nausherwan (Naush) is an MSc Entrepreneurship and Innovation student at the University of Edinburgh. Originally from Pakistan, he moved to Edinburgh after studying for his undergraduate degree in Turkey.
Season 4 is all about student voices. Each episode features a student in conversation with a member of the wider community. Sharing experiences and finding unexpected common ground.
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You can find more information on the Sharing things website.
Kate 0:05 Welcome to season four of Sharing things. Lots of things have happened and kinda nothing's happened. We're still recording remotely but there's a new host. I'm Kate, your guide and conversation wrangler. This episode features Naush and Neil and totally had me off down a Sealand rabbit hole.
Kate 0:28 So hello Neil and Naush. It's really nice to have you both here.
Neil 0:32 Thanks for having us.
Kate 0:33 No worries. How are you doing?
Neil 0:35 I'm okay. You know, lockdown's easing.
Kate 0:38 [laughter] Yeah, exactly.
Nausherwan 0:39 Great. Okay, just a lot of assignments and stuff. March, towards the end of the semester, was trying to soldier through.
Kate 0:44 So, what I thought we could do just to sort of kick things off is give you both the chance to introduce yourselves to each other because obviously you're strangers to each other. So, yeah. .
Neil 0:56 On you go Naush.
Nausherwan 0:56 Ah right, okay. So, I'm Naush. I'm an MSc entrepreneurship and Innovation student at the Business School. So, I'm from Pakistan, originally, but I did my undergrad in Turkey, in Ankara. So I was living there for four years before I finished up in June. With the undergrad degree that I hopped on here.
Neil 1:17 My name is Neil, I'm a writer. I'm an Edinburgh University alumni and I left quite a long time ago now. 2000, I would have left. So, I did politics at Edinburgh. And I'm a writer. I wrote books and I write for television.
Kate 1:38 I also asked you both to bring an object with you today. So I was wondering if you wouldn't mind telling each other about the objects that you brought with you.
Nausherwan 1:46 What I brought with me is this camera. So it's, it's a Canon DSLR. I've had it for roughly around eight or nine years now. It's just this very sturdy camera, quite heavy, and the reason I chose the object is that I got this at around the start of my A Levels, back in Pakistan. And I feel like that's when I really started, sort of coming to my own. I was really shy person before that. But around that time, I started to get really into debates. I went abroad to Europe for a couple of competitions, I took this camera with me to take pictures, and since then it's just been part of my undergrad. Now it's part of my post grad. So it's captured all of the personal moments, the professional moments, because I've been using it for events and all as well. So I just feel like it's been like a little companion just like a little storyteller, with me, that's just been capturing all those moments for me. And it's quite, it's quite sentimental, actually. And recently I ended up I ended up doing an assignment on it when I had to talk as the object itself. So I had to narrate a story about the object talking as the object. So I chose this camera for that as well. I never imagined it would play like a direct role in academics or something for me, considering I'm a business student and all but it just shows how unpredictable life is. And I guess that's what this camera does. When I go through all the old photos and stuff.
Neil 3:03 Where do you go in Edinburgh with your camera, Naush?
Nausherwan 3:06 Well, I haven't had a chance to travel much but just in and around the city, just around like Dean's village and stuff, taking pictures there. I've only done it like a couple of times. I've taken it out for some photo walks. But it's been really nice,
Neil 3:18 Because that's lockdown-proof that hobby as well, isn't it?
Nausherwan 3:20 Yeah, it is.
Kate 3:23 Naush, you mentioned that, like, you feel that you're quite a shy person. So would you say that you prefer to be the person behind the camera as opposed to the person having their photo taken?
Nausherwan 3:33 Yeah, I definitely started that way but I feel like with the debates and all and with my experiences in undergrad, I've now sort of built a good base of confidence. And now I do enjoy interacting with people. So I feel like the camera sort of also captured that transition, so to speak. But I do still prefer being the person behind the camera. Definitely, it's just a lot more fun. It's a lot more challenging to take a good photo for me, even if it's a friend's or anything else. I just really enjoy taking pictures.
Neil 4:00 So I went to school in Dundee, and we had a sort of school debate thing one day, and I kind of did it at the last minute. It was just in front of my class, and it was all pretty relaxed, or maybe my year. Anyway, I just really enjoyed it. I find it really easy kind of debating with a few jokes and things and a good argument. And the teacher said, well, we're going to take a few of you to a debate competition. And we went down to Durham University. And I just thought this would be a similar thing. You just do a couple of gags. Anyway, we've got down there from Dundee and there was these English public school kids that were just these golden kind of people who have incredible self confidence. And I just absolutely crumbled. Wheels came off and I could barely get a word out. And I think I had a similar thing when I went to Edinburgh uni actually from Dundee. I just found the confidence of some other students, and particularly maybe people that have been through things like the debating, was so kind of off the charts to where I'm from, and I suppose it is the kind of hobby that probably helps you with things like that.
Nausherwan 4:57 Yeah, absolutely. I would say it helped me a lot, you know. Now, in, over here for masters, a lot of people consider me to be more on the confident side, I presume because those years of debating has helped transform me. I also remember the first time I had to speak, because I did more Model United Nations. I remember I was representing Japan in a committee about nuclear weapons and I could barely raise like my flag. My hand was shivering. And since then, to now, I just remember, it's just been such a crazy transformation. I'm really thankful for debating experiences. Yeah you meet some very confident people.
Kate 5:29 And Neil, where do you, where do you think your confidence comes from?
Neil 5:33 It's been kind of hard earned, I'd say. When I started out, I remember when I first started to get books published, and going to do book festivals, I was an absolute nervous wreck. These were tiny book festivals. They're actually the hardest I find, from doing quite a lot of events now. If you go and do something like Pitlochry Book Festival to 10 people, that is far, far more daunting than I've done like Edinburgh or Glasgow book festivals, maybe 2 or 300, it's much easier because you just you know, you only need 10% the audience to laugh or engage and it feels quite a busy reaction. But 10% of 10 people is 1 so you got 1 person reacting at an event, it's fairly torturous. So I remember doing early things like that, and just being. . .my now wife came with me to, erm, I think it was Aberdeen Book Festival - and she often brings up gleefully, seeing me, I think I came out the toilet, gave her - this was before I went on - give her a thumbs up and then walked into a pillar because I was so nervous. [laughter] But I was-- I would be absolutely, just petrified. But I don't know, you just have to keep doing it and battle through and start to get more, more confident, I suppose in yourself and, and realise that really, with these things, make sure you enjoy it, because if you're enjoying it, you'll be more relaxed. And it's hard to catastrophise these things when you keep doing them and they go okay. Because it's harder to convince yourself, it's going to be this epic catastrophe when you know, you're actually well, I've done loads of these now and it usually goes pretty well or at worse, it's fine. But--
Kate 7:08 Do you sometimes think that you make it worse in your heads than actually it is, and people who are there might be like, no, this is fine.
Neil 7:14 Oh, hugely, hugely and it's ridiculous. And afterwards you feel ridiculous. You're like, why was I so worried about going out there, talking about-- These are people who have bought a ticket to come in here to hear you talking about a book. It's really not going to be a problem. It's a pretty warm crowd. My nadir was when I did Airdrie Book Festival on a Monday night, and there were six people there. And just before I start-- It was in this public library. And just before I started, this guy just rushed in. I said, oh we're just starting. So he kind of sat down, he looked really, really uncomfortable, and I kept speaking and he was just, he was very red faced, getting more and more comfortable, and about five minutes in, he said, oh sorry, big man, I just came in to use the toilet. [group laughter] And then, and I went all right, okay, well, anyway, so he got up and he went round the corner, and I sort of continued and he popped his head back around the corner and asked me where the toilet was. I don't actually work here, mate. This is getting ridiculous. So it's hard to recover, hard to recover from that kind of thing.
Kate 8:22 Naush when you're like, you know, say you're debating or you're presenting something or something, do you have like a process that you go through when you start to feel like, oh, no, maybe this isn't going that well, or, you know, you start to feel like you're not as confident.
Nausherwan 8:38 Um, yeah, I feel like that that shy, young high schooler always makes an appearance five minutes before I'm supposed to speak. You know, it's always like, because I have this habit of going through what I'm going to say in my head. I don't like to take notes, because I feel like speaking organically is the best way to do things. But then there's always like five minutes before where I'm just like getting a bit anxious, then I do like a couple of deep breathing exercises, relax myself. And then I just get into the zone so to speak, but you're always every time whether it's an online zoom presentation, whether it's three people or like 1000, which is the highest I ever had to do once, but like it was always, it's always the same. It doesn't-- the anxiety, the stress always kicks in for a few minutes, but then breathing exercises has helped me. Having a bit of a ritual with this kind of thing is really useful.
Neil 9:26 I can't believe you do it with no notes. So that's eh, that makes me feel quite nauseous. [laughter] One of the ways I relax is by being really prepared and just knowing-- going over it again and again and knowing those first five minutes, sort of thing, and feeling it's pretty strong, but erm yeah, I think going in no-notes would be fairly terrifying.
Kate 9:52 And Neil, can I ask you what object you brought with you today.
Neil 9:56 I brought this, which is a, it's a football fanzine, so which is kind of supporters', amateur magazine they put together. It was very popular in the 90s. A lot of football clubs had several fanzines by little supporters groups. And it's called When the Hoodoo Comes, Falkirk Arabs' fanzine. It's from 1992, I think, I would have been 13 at the time. And this was the first writing I ever did. And we got published in inverted commas. I just dug it out in the, in the attic, and I was eh-- This is actually the second issue I ever wrote for. It's got the contributors' list. And it's got Neil Forsyth written in here. And this was my first by-line, if you like, a first credit, and I just thought, domestic and family stuff aside, this is something that I thought was really imbued with the style and memories from you, this kind of thing. And it ties to a lot of different things in my life. But this was just amazing. I wrote silly little joke bits and things and, and to get published, if you like, it was just, it was just amazing. The thrill of it, the thrill of kind of getting the fanzine, saying I've got a couple of things in this issue. Then I would help sell outside the ground and stuff. It was just so, so exciting. You know, that that kind of thing. And it's that kind of feeling I've not really lost in terms of getting your work commissioned or getting something made or anything like that. But yeah, so it kind of means a lot to me, this sort of thing.
Kate 11:22 Yeah. What do you think is different about the fact that that was published? You know, when you were so young to like, the books that you publish now, what is the difference between them and that feeling?
Neil 11:31 The same, the same, really. I mean, it sounds ridiculous, because what I was largely doing with it, and I was this age was writing really basic little humour things. I used to cut comic strips out of magazines, and then Tippex the speech bubbles and write silly alternative speech in, like making fun of other football clubs or something. Wasn't Tolstoy! Pretty basic stuff. I mean, this is the intellectual level we're talking about. I wrote an article about 'all the reasons with Dundee'. So Dundee has got two football clubs: Dundee United who I supported and who this fanzine was to do with and then Dundee who were sort of our big rivals. And I wrote a list of all three that we shouldn't worry about Dundee, and one of them I just saw was Dundee are crap and Dundee will always be crap. [mild laughter] That's the level of the literary achievement in this thing. Well, what's funny about that is my mum found this and she came through and she read it, and she came through and said did you write that that bit? And I think I went bright red. [unintelligible]. So she gave me a one issue ban from writing for the magazine because I'd sworn. So that was an early lesson in writing for your audience.
Nausherwan 12:41 Eh Neil, did you keep writing about sport? Or did you shift?
Neil 12:44 Yeah, I wrote for kind of football fanzines and things like that, when I was teenage years, and I came to Edinburgh University. And it's funny that we're talking about confidence and things before and I really wish I'd done, I should have done an English literature, or some sort of journalism course, perhaps, but I didn't quite have the confidence, I think to say that this is what I wanted to do. It felt a bit unreal. You know, it was, it was coming from a kind of provincial city and things. This is pre internet really, as well. So the world felt much scarier before the internet came along, growing up, then. In some ways, it was great, I think, having no internet as a, as a, as a kid. But it also-- everything felt more distant and unlikely, you know, you couldn't just connect with anything in the world or look up loads of information at the drop of a hat. So, so it just felt very unlikely the idea of being a writer, even though I knew, I knew what I wanted to do so. So, I came to Edinburgh to do politics instead, as a sort of general degree that could go off into different areas. And I still, yeah, I still, I still wrote - this was in the early days of football websites - I still wrote for-- Then I went down to London after-- I got a graduate position in advertising, but I knew I wanted to write. So it was again writing kind of on the side for football websites, and a couple of magazine things. And then I quit my job, went travelling, came back to Edinburgh, and I worked in a pub in Edinburgh for a long time and worked my way into a writing career. And it was because I had this sort of catalogue of writing for football websites and software, I managed to get myself some shifts doing match, football match reports for the Scotsman and the Scotland on Sunday Edinburgh newspapers and the Herald. Yeah, so this football fanzine here and my, you know, abjects little articles, and things like that have directly led to my, my career now, definitely.
Kate 14:26 You know, you were doing your politics degree, but, you know, you had that sense that not exactly what you want to do. And writing was sort of something that you wanted to aspire to how did that feel?
Neil 14:37 Difficult. It was that, it's that confidence thing we were talking about earlier, really. I remember again, I remember seeing people-- I remember there was, erm, a really nice guy that had come in, he was a friend of a friend and he was in the theatre group. I don't know what they're called at Edinburgh, so it's a Footlights type thing or if it's the theatre - Bedlam is it? Bedlam Theatre?
Kate 14:55 Yeah, yeah.
Neil 14:57 I remember him and his, I think, his girlfriend were in that and everyone telling me they were flyering for this play that they were doing and chatting to them about it, and he's 'oh, yeah, it's all students, you know, we're putting on this big production'. And I was thinking, 'oh God', and then there was another guy that wrote for the student newspaper, for example. And I remember, thinking God, I wish I could do that. And it's now you look back on it, I could have done that, it's so strange confidence, particularly when you're young I think, yeah, I just wasn't, didn't quite have that extra push to push myself forward.
Kate 15:25 Do you regret not doing those things?
Neil 15:28 I don't know. I mean, part of it was, you know, I kind of, it was difficult, you know, that kind of late teen/20s, you've got all sorts of things going on in your life. And probably some of them stop me from having the kind of kind of clarity to think this is what I want to do. But the life I've led is now why I write what I write. It's not just writing that teaches you how to be a writer, helps you become a writer, it's living life as well. And it's experience and, and emotions. So you're that kind of emotion of outside looking in or, or feeling of regrets or anything like that. That emotional experience goes into writing as you get older, just as much as it would have done if you spent three years writing for the newspaper you know, so. . .
Kate 16:14 and Naush, what about you, is there anything in your life that you've not done, but that you think you might want to?
Nausherwan 16:20 You know, ideally, I'd love to be able to be better at languages. That's one thing that you know, I was in Turkey for four years, but I only picked up very basic Turkish, that's something I do regret because it was a great country. I really enjoyed it but I felt like had I been fluent in the language, I would have been developed one level of like, sort of deeper ties. But I was just so busy with other stuff to give even like 30 minutes a day, because I was working with international students. I was working for the student newspaper. So I've done a bit of, dabbled with a bit of writing as well. Just you know, whatever time was left, would just be to socialise. And I'd love to just sort of get into language learning because I feel like when you know the local language, you can really pick up so much. So I'm happy to be here, at least you know, over here is English, so you can get deep into the culture. That's a good advantage of moving from non-English speaking country to an English speaking country for me,
Kate 17:17 Do you think not knowing the language when you were in Turkey had an impact on your experience there?
Nausherwan 17:23 I feel like in my university was an English my friends all spoke English wouldn't affect that. But what it does affect is that like, you're not able to interact with like, just normal people, like outside of your university, so to speak, because most Turkish people like your people who work at stores, waiters, waitresses, taxi drivers, all these people, they only speak Turkish right? And I feel like there's very interesting conversations that you have, like in an Uber or in a taxi or like that kind of thing. You really learn a lot from that, you know, because when you're in uni, you're interacting. I mean, they're different majors and all that everyone's coming in with, like distinct to get a university education, the background. Most unis are quite similar, even if they're diverse generally, but it's just I really feel like to interact with everyone in society, you do need to know the language, you know, otherwise, you just get into this bubble. And I enjoyed my bubble. Definitely. But it was a bubble, 100%.
Kate 18:20 And Neil, you grew up in Scotland? So do you have like sort of your side of that and what that was like?
Neil 18:26 It must be amazing for Naush, going to I think a foreign country must be so exciting. But yeah, again, I had friends at Edinburgh who by the third year went off abroad and things. Of course, that would have been, that would have been really interesting. And that kind of language thing and sort of freely learning a language in a country I suppose. I mean, that's the thing Naush, I mean, you must have picked up a lot of languages, as you went in Turkey, did you?
Nausherwan 18:51 Yeah, I mean, I do speak like a functional or survival Turkish because I was in Ankara, which is not a touristy city, at all. So, over there, there was, like zero English I mean, even 'hello, yes, no' would not get a response from people, right. So you really had to learn and you had to learn fast, at least to survive. So I did pick up that but just for deeper conversation, that part, just that fluency just evaded me. And also, I like listening to music in different languages, even though I don't understand them. So I felt like if I understood the languages, that would have also been an even deeper experience, because I listened to a lot of Arabic, Russian music and music is a big part, big part of the culture and story of each country, so I really enjoy that as well. But I felt like if I, hypothetically, if I could learn as many languages as possible, I could just get so much of a richer cultural experience.
Neil 19:43 How long have you been in Edinburgh for?
Nausherwan 19:46 Erm, I got here in September.
Neil 19:48 So have you been locked down for, oh hang on, you had a little bit of freedom when you first arrived?
Nausherwan 19:54 [laughs] Yeah, I mean, at least up until well, I think Christmas, cafes and all were open for the most bit at least so you had something to do. To me, yeah, I'm really looking forward to things opening up soon. Edinburgh is a beautiful city to be in lockdown even just you know, because it's so nice to take these walks and stuff. But of course, to have places open, that's where the life of the city truly comes through, which is what I'd like to hopefully see over the summer.
Neil 20:21 Have you managed to make friends or anything and people in the course or I suppose you--
Nausherwan 20:25 Actually I did because last semester, we could still for most part, socialise, you know, with like six people, two households, kind of thing. And also, we could at least do very small meetups within those limits and stuff. And I'm lucky that my course is quite small. It's just 30 people; it's the smallest one in the Business School. And that group just became like a friend circle because we were just six, seven of us in a divided rota, taking class together, walking to campus, walking back to stopping in between and all that so I've made a good group of friends. But I did miss out definitely on meeting people from other programmes because there was just minimal opportunity to do that, I mean, the University tried with online events, but I feel like it's difficult to socialise online when you haven't met a person, like in person before. When you've had that rapport in person then it's fine. You can video call them, it's still nice, but just to meet someone first time online, it's a bit of a challenge.
Kate 21:26 Neil, is there any anything that you would recommend to Naush that he do, while he's in Scotland? Maybe somewhere that he could use his camera?
Neil 21:34 Oh wow. Have you been up Arthur's Seat, walked up Arthur's Seat?
Nausherwan 21:38 Yeah, once that was, was brilliant, but I need to do it again, especially soon with this weather and I think we perfect it'd be really nice.
Neil 21:45 mmm, yeah, that was-- because I went to, I stayed in Pollock Halls in Fresher's year. And that was always quite good for clearing the head, if you've been out the night before, was walking up Arthur's Seat. [a little laughter] But it's such a, it's just such a beautiful city, Edinburgh, and it's a great city for walking as well, you know, you can, you can get about largely, you know, without, without having to get kind of public transport or drive and so on. But it's yeah, it's great. I kind of feel very nostalgic towards Edinburgh. I lived there for a long time, erm, you know, when was starting to work, write, as well, and it's, I've set some of my work there and things. It's, it's a really special, special place.
Nausherwan 22:27 Neil, can I ask you, since you wrote about football and all that, and I'm quite a football fan, what was your most interesting experience or like the most unique match that you covered?
Neil 22:38 I did a lot of kind of quirky stories. So I wasn't kind of going and doing big games. It was more about odd little stories within football. So there was a famous story about a guy called Jimmy Glass who was a Carlisle United goalkeeper, and in the 90s, they were about to get relegated out of the Football League. And he went up for a corner, and he scored as the goalie, the goal that saved Carlisle. [laughter] And he's just unbelievable cult hero. And the next he was on the major news programmes and all this stuff. And he was a, was a big story, you know, for a day or two. And then it obviously just went away, and he barely played again, and he got injured. And I went and tracked him down. He was working as a taxi driver in Bournemouth, this is like 10/15 years later and been completely forgotten about for a long time. And I kind of found him and he wasn't sure and he talked about it. And then it was just really interesting talks about his life since and how that weird little bit of fame probably didn't help him. And it became a bit of a novelty act. And that was one that springs to mind that that was the kind of things I would do all the time, it was odd little stories or some weird thing I'd come across and dig out a bit more into it. And that was kind of, the kind of football stuff I did. And then there was a really interesting thing I did with a thing called Sealand, which was Sealand's an old military fort in the North Sea. And in the 70s, this family of cockle fishermen from Southend, they went out on a boat and took it over and live in it. And they called themselves a principality and they call themselves Prince Michael of Sealand and the dad is King John or something ridiculous. Anyway they live in this fort. They've taken possession of this fort. And I said to them, why don't you have a international football team of your country? So they said well, why don't you start one, so I started it so we had, we played three international friendlies. So I've got three international football caps for Sealand, as do several of my mates and my brother because we made up the team. So we played Alderney, the Channel Islands. But we also played the Chagos Islands. So Chagos Islands, the Chagossians you might know this Naush, they're sort of dispossessed people. They got moved off their island in the Indian Ocean. Americans think they've got a big naval base, and there's an ongoing decades-long legal battle for them to try and get back to the ruling central homeland, but they now live mostly in Crawley in the, in Sussex, near Gatwick Airport. That's just where the community largely settled. So they've got a team but that's a proper international football team, but because they're there in this legal quandary about the homeland, they can't join FIFA. So we played them. So we turned up, so we hired this non-league ground in Surrey and me and my mates -- we're all decent amateur players, and then the Chagossians turned up and they had 200 fans with them and a band. So both teams lined up for the national anthems. The Chagossian band came on the pitch and played the national anthem and the Chagossians all started crying because this is like a really sad moment because they're, they're this dispossessed people. And I felt extremely uncomfortable, because I knew what was going to come next was the Sealand national anthem, which was written by a 12-year-old in Germany on a synthesiser. [laughter] So after this incredibly emotional rendition of the Chagos Islands anthem, it just came in with [mimicking a synthesiser]. We were standing there in absolute pieces holding it together. Anyway, so that was a, that was fun. That was one of my football stories.
Nausherwan 26:13 What was the score line?
Neil 26:15 We lost. We were dignified enough to lose at least. So we, so Chagos Islands, yeah, they won. But that was, they were really-- I did a lot of work for magazines, and some of the men's mags. So it was a lot of stories like that and fun things. And it was sort of the end of it, you could feel the end of that time of magazines words, the word rate getting cut, the length of articles getting cut, everything was just tightening and tightening, and you could feel it, the kind of freelance journalism market was just getting harder and harder.
Kate 26:46 To, to bring it back to the, the objects that you both brought today. Do you feel that you know, when you're taking pictures? And does that reveal something about yourself and you taking the pictures? Or is it about the process of you, you know, doing your photography?
Nausherwan 27:05 I mean, I would say it's, it's more about like, like the process for me, because I just, I just have these like random things where I see something with the camera, I'm like, okay, I think I could get a good shot of this. It's like, if it was an event, because I did some event photography as well, then you'd be in that zone of okay, I need to get a good angle of the speaker, I need to get an angle that highlights the room being more full than if it's a bit empty, you know, this, this, these kind of things, and the zone it puts me in, sort of tailors the experience more than like the subject itself, in my opinion. For me, it's always just been about the experience, so to speak. Just capturing that, but enjoying the experience and enjoying the experience of trying to take a photo.
Kate 27:48 And thinking about that question that I just asked, Naush, erm, I'll ask the same to you, Neil about, you know, when you're writing, do you feel like you're revealing a part of yourself through your writing?
Neil 28:00 Yeah, I don't think you can't not really. I think it's erm, but I don't think it's always too literal. I think like with writing the sort of the-- what a writer puts in is any sort of personal experience, observed experience, and imagined experience, which are often I think it's sort of what if, you know, so often, as a writer in your life, you might have gone a little bit down a road. And when you write a character, you imagine if you've gone all the way down the road, or you just imagine the forks in your life that you've met, and if you've gone the other way, and so it's a blend of usually the person observed and the imagined, and it's all mixed up together. And I do think it's valuable when you're writing from some, one of those perspectives, that I'd give it a bit more validation and heft and it will come out a bit more naturally. I think, you know, the write about what you know, taken literally, it's the worst advice you could ever, you could ever hear. But taken with a bit more, with a bit more nuance, I think it's right, it's not about write in a literal sense, otherwise there wouldn't be any sci-fi films ever made, you know. But it's like, it's more about writing emotions that you understand or feelings that you understand whether that's positive or negative for the type of relationship that you understand or are, again, characters who you've met in your life and have a bit more nuance to it, than if you understand that thing of experience is really important. But, it's just find-- it's finding your voice and finding your voice as a writer. It's about getting as close as you can to your kind of real voice, both outer and inner as well. So it is a very personal process. And that's where the best writing gets done, I think.
Kate 29:40 Do you feel that you write for yourself or do you think about, you know, this is what people want me to write about?
Neil 29:48 I think you, I think I've got better at writing for myself and I've managed to get to a position where I can do that more. I think there's a pragmatic element to it and for a long time you're writing to pay your rent or your mortgage or whatever, so you can't be too pure about it. But sometimes people will bring me ideas or stories or the option to book for example, to adapt and I kind of think, well yeah, that could work, you know, that could be a show, I could see how that might be a show. But a fortunate position, touch wood. I don't do this so much now at all. But certainly for a long time, it was like well, if someone's going to commission to write this, I think I could do a decent job of this. But it's not like I'm sitting there loving every moment, and I'm consumed by it. And this is what I've always wanted to do. But sometimes you just got to take on a job that it's gonna make you a better writer, I think as well as pragmatically, give you a few quid I suppose.
Kate 30:42 I do have one last question for you both and it's the final question that we ask on every episode of Sharing things. And that is, if you could use one word that represents the object that you brought with you today, what word would you choose?
Neil 30:56 Mine would be nostalgia. Because I'm ageing by the year, and it seems to be a more prevalent part of my outlook in life. But it's, it just is, it just reminds me of being 13 years old, and walking up Tannadice Street to the football ground, and I'm hoping that I had a few articles in the fanzine and turning to this first page and looking at the contributors and seeing, seeing my name. And it just, you know, what a thrill, what a thrill it was, and remains, you know, it just remains seeing it, seeing the credit on the TV screen is exactly the same. It's that same thread back to standing outside Tannadice at 13, and having a fanzine with my name in it. So it's, yeah, it's a very positive experience to revisit.
Kate 31:42 Did you feel that you had like a connection with the other fans by writing in the fanzine?
Neil 31:47 Oh, totally. So here, there's a spot I remember going in the ground and watching people read it. Seeing what and then trying to see if they turn to your page and maybe they'd have a little, you know, Dundonian men don't, aren't massively overt in their feelings, but you may get one smile or something. And no, that was that was just brilliant. Or sometimes on the bus or from the game, you'd see people reading it and things. You know, it was, it was pretty, it was yeah, absolutely fantastic.
Kate 32:17 And Naush, what about you? What word would you use?
Nausherwan 32:20 It's, it's difficult to choose one. But I guess I might go for progress. Because this camera has been part of like my progress as a person. And when I go through the pictures that it's taken, I can see how much I've changed not just in terms of confidence but in terms of my personality. You know, I was a different person in high school, I was a different person in first year of undergrad. I was, back in high school, I was just like someone who watched football games on the TV. But then I started to go to games. I went to a couple of games in Turkey, I went to one in Spain, been to the Emirates Stadium, because I'm an Arsenal fan. I really hope to be able to watch a game here at some point. So it's not just that it's just like progressing from stages of high school to undergrad to masters now. And I'm really excited to have this around, this camera around, to see what it captures next. You know, I mean, there's lots of exciting opportunities. The next few months are quite important for me to get a job figured out, what happens next. But I'd like you know, this camera to be around to capture that progress.
Kate 33:14 Well, I think that's probably a good place for us to end the episode. Thanks so much for coming along to talk to us today. It was really great.
Neil 33:22 I really enjoyed it. Naush, good luck with everything. I hope you get a job and the camera has some fun journeys with you over the years ahead.
Nausherwan 33:31 Thank you so much. And I wish you all the best for your writing. I hope you write more and more for yourself and just you know, enjoy the process.
Neil 33:38 Thank you Naush. Thanks very much, Kate. Thanks for having me.
Kate 33:48 Thank you for listening to Sharing things. Subscribe now for more conversations and more people. Take a look at our website to find out more about past episodes and guests. See you next time.
Kate 34:14 I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting members of our University of Edinburgh community. To connect with more, join Platform One, our online meeting place for students, alumni and staff of the University. To find out more, search Platform One Edinburgh.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai