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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh is a Scottish novelist whose debut novel, Trainspotting, stunned audiences with its depictions of deep Scottish slang and the highs and squalor of Edinburgh’s down-and-out street life. Welsh has lived in Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, Dublin, Chicago, and Miami Beach. His latest novel, Dead Men’s Trousers,” the finale of the Trainspotting saga, follows his aging, still-troubled characters’ misadventures across the world.

Where do you come up with your best ideas?
No set place. They can strike anytime (or not) and anywhere. Used to be the pub, now more likely to be the gym.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
It’s always when somebody you like goes to bed with you.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?
I can’t really say ‘see above’ here, so I think the simple kindness of calling up a friend who is having a bad time, checking in on somebody who is having a relationship breakdown, bereavement, etc.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
The blank page. I love it, but it pushes me every time.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?
Visual artist. I admire and love the ones who can move me without me knowing why.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?
They are all incredibly useful if you don’t keep repeating the same ones. 

“If you can’t be the hardest, most charismatic, intelligent, or witty bastard in the pack, make them your best mates and learn from them.”

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?
Life is one big set of strange experiences. Everybody is born! Imagine that! We’re all pushed or torn out of another human being because they had sex with somebody! Nothing should seem strange to you if you embrace the truth of your origins.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
Usually romantic ones. Sometimes you can have strong feelings for a person but you just come along at the wrong time in each other’s lives and you can’t get past the baggage either you or they happen to be carrying at the time. Has happened on a few occasions to me, and it’s always a sore one.

How do you relax?
Meditation, yoga, boxing, sex, reading.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I’d get mobile around Asia. I always had limited experience of it but I went around several places there on tour last year and I loved it.

What is your most indelible childhood memory?
My dad holding up my armless bunny and my teddy bear above the door of my bedroom and putting on a puppet show for me.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in school?
If you can’t be the hardest, most charismatic, intelligent, or witty bastard in the pack, then make them your best mates and learn from them. They will teach you more than the teachers will, without even knowing that they’re doing it.

When you’re stuck, how do you get unstuck?
Move on to something else for a bit. Get some distance from the problem, let all your anxiety and confusion peel away and look at it with fresh eyes.

What is your proudest moment?
I dunno. I don’t think I’m a very proud person. I think I’m more of an enthusiastic sort. I get excited if I do or experience good things but tend to use that as a springboard to go on to the next thing. I rarely bask in my triumphs, but do tend to dwell a bit too much on my tragedies. But then you learn more from your mistakes than successes.

What would you like to experience before you die?
You can never have enough love.

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