Toni Kan in conversation with Omar Bin Musa – I usually write really late at night.
OBM: My name is Omar bin Musa from Australia and I wrote a novel called ‘Here come the dogs’ and two books of poetry called ‘Mila Fiore’ and ‘Parang.’
TK: So, will you call yourself a writer?
OBM: Yes, I would very tentatively though. I mean, I think because it’s the main thing that I do, but sometimes I kind of see myself just as a person who produces work, and a lot of that happens to the writing. Okay.
TK: So, when did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
OBM: When did I realise? Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed it since a really young age like maybe even nine years old. In class, my teacher set some poetry exercises and when the rest of the kids in class, were like, so bored thinking it was the most pretentious dull, dusty thing ever. I actually loved it and I felt like I could express my thoughts, especially negative thoughts and turn them into something beautiful and not necessarily beautiful, but just fun. So I didn’t think at that time I was going to be a writer. I would have prefered to be a performer. And I guess now I’m both. Yes, as a poet and a rapper, and then I think it was probably after I’d put out this one hip hop album that I wanted some time to myself and time to just really lock myself away in solitude and come up with something new. And I decided to write a novel. And so that was when I dedicated myself to that. But yeah, I think I kind of fell into it all pretty haphazardly.
TK: So, you write fiction, you write poetry, and now you do music?
OBM: Yeah, I started with the poetry got into the music and then got into the fiction, and I have done some stuff for TV.
TK: How different are they?
OBM: I’d like to say you know that they’re all just different branches of the same river of writing, but I think they’re very, very different, you know, different forms almost require different types of language sometimes, but I try to experiment with all of them because I think It gives me different weapons in my arsenal to kind of play with, that I can then use and so sometimes my poetry is more informed by fiction and so it’s more like prose, poetry, or vice versa. And so, yeah, I think they’re very different forms.
TK: So, if you had to choose, like someone points a gun at you and says you’ve got three options, which would you say is your preferred option?
OBM: I think the poetry would come first because to me, it’s more natural, and it’s kind of the most distilled and you can tell stories, you can invent worlds just in one or two lines or a stanza. And it was the thing that I first came to, and I didn’t even realise that it was poetry. That’s the thing. When I kind of started, I just came to it and my words had a rhythm and a certain type of imagery. And so yeah, I think poetry would be first.
TK: So, what sparks off your writing, is it a word image, an image, idea or conversation?
OBM: An image. My stuff is always very visual and kind of image-based and I just try to describe those visions and images, and so something like the novel, I started off with an image of a man standing in front of a wall of flame. That’s all I had. I didn’t have a story in mind. But I started interrogating this image, asking questions – who is this man? What’s his name? How did he get there? What sort of music does he listen to? What’s his family life like and then slowly a world started to shape. So it’s almost like a process of reverse engineering. But at the same time, slang influences me a lot, Australian slang, conversational stuff, you know, lines that I hear on the bus or the train that I can then take and turn into something. And so yeah, it depends, but I think it’s usually visually-based.
TK: : So, once the idea has taken hold, how do you execute, in the morning, afternoon night? Do you set out time to write, do you give yourself a target, number of words; What’s your process for writing?
OBM: No, I set a really low bar for myself now because you know, sometimes we trick ourselves and say, Look, if I write 1,000 words a day for 50 days, I’ll have 50,000 words, doesn’t work like that for me. Sometimes even if I just get 300 words down or 200 but I did some really good thinking and procrastinating too is like a huge part of the process. But I usually do it very late at night. I try to work every day, like just get something down, even if it’s because I do poetry and rap stuff as well, even if it’s just a nice, four bar, kind of line, rhyme scheme or a couplet. But I say writing is an action as much as the thought process. So I try and force my hand to write, sit my ass down and get it done. But I usually write really late at night.