I reached Michael by phone at his home on Galiano Island. We talked about his latest novel, If I Fall, If I Die (read my review here), race and class barriers in Canada, and skateboarding as an artistic subculture.
In the interview Michael talks about risk-taking in skateboarding and writing:
Fear is a very useful emotion: I don’t believe we should all simply identify the most frightening thing there is and go out and do it. However, I do think it’s true that when you’re afraid to try something that is difficult but still doable, and you’re balanced on the question of whether or not to attempt it—to write that first page or to attempt a particular trick—this is a critical moment.
I was utterly paralyzed with anxiety when I first began to write literary fiction. You have no idea what the spills are going to feel like—getting a bad review, being rejected by a magazine—but when it happens it’s weirdly empowering. You become someone who can say, “I just got ten rejections, but I’m alive and I’ll keep going and I’m fine.” Anxiety and fear can be toxic to the creative process because they hem you in and prevent you from being brave, from sticking your chin out and taking shots.