TedX talk on originality in fiction

Posted in News

August 2017

Late last year, I was asked to give a TedX talk at my old university, Cambridge, as part of a day-long TedX event on the theme of “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”.

My first instinct was to run and hide under the bed: to give a 15-minute talk, without notes, to a live audience and five cameras recording my every word for YouTube posterity sounded like just about the scariest thing I’d ever done. Scarier, by far, than writing novels, or having them published, or talking about them. Scarier, definitely, than giving talks in front of hundreds of people: at least on those occasions, I’d been allowed to keep my notes!

However, as someone who generally lives by the principle that if something terrifies you, it is almost certainly worth doing (possibly with the exception of swimming with sharks), I decided to say yes… And a few months later, in February 2017, I found myself standing in a building inside St John’s College in Cambridge, giving the talk, facing down those very cameras… talking, appropriately enough, about fear, and what an essential motivating factor it is for novelists, and all artists, trying to write or create something original, something true.

It turned out to be one of the most empowering, enjoyable professional experiences I’ve had. I’m so glad I faced down The Fear… and still try to do so every day of my life.

You can watch the talk on YouTube, and read the text of the speech here.