Before I was even able to write, I was writing. I wrote page upon page of squiggles that resembled the jagged patterns on a heart monitor. Not long after that, I was reading the likes of Pinocchio and The Little Red Hen. And I hadn’t even started school yet.
I am eternally grateful for my literacy. It’s one of the greatest skills I’ve ever been taught. That and swimming.
In primary school, I proudly gave an illustrated short story about princesses and witches to my first class teacher. She returned it, without comment but with red marks highlighting all my spelling mistakes. That didn’t stop me. I found the poems I’d given my third class teacher stuffed into the back of a cupboard. I was surprised and hurt but I wrote on. I made booklets and cassettes of my poetry for my kind, enthusiastic grandparents. And finally, in fourth class, my teacher Mrs Molloy praised my writing and urged me to continue.
I went on to win numerous writing competitions in secondary school. I was published several times in the Leinster Leader. I enjoyed writing essays for English class. Even in exam settings, I was able to lose myself in my writing. I thrived on learning palatable new words and using them in my prose. An examiner once docked me marks for describing the ocean as “cerulean”. She said it wasn’t a real word. Check the dictionary, woman!
Poetry and free flow writing helped me in my darkest moments. Even though life was scary and hopeless, I had the ability to create something beautiful and inspiring.
However, there came a time when the confidence in every area of my life was completely obliterated and I stopped writing. When people asked why, I told them that I simply wasn’t inspired any more, or that I was too busy.
Thankfully, I’ve worked hard on myself and rebuilt my confidence. But I worried that I wouldn’t have the necessary angst to be able to write, now that I was happier and my life was more stable. My best work had always come in my most desolate moments.
But I hadn’t reckoned on the power of living in the present moment to boost my creativity. My motivation and positivity increased. My sense of humour was heightened. Because I resided less in my head, I became more aware, observant, and alive. This translates wonderfully in a person’s writing.
I went on to study Journalism, where I had my own column in the college magazine. I wrote articles for our class newspaper. I had travel features published in magazines like U and Backpacker. I enjoy writing snappy reviews on Yelp, which has helped rekindle my creative spark. And now, I’m thoroughly enjoying creating this blog.
I get a kick out of depicting objects, situations and emotions using language. I adore playing with words and inventing never-before-used descriptions. I love the smell of books and the ambience of a bookshop. And getting sucked in by the first page of a novel is like what I imagine taking crack cocaine must feel like. For me, great literature isn’t just the classics and the novels that win the Man Booker Prize. It can be a witty newspaper column, a vibrant travel feature, a heart-rending or hilarious blog post, a compelling thriller.
Today, I treated myself to a Jodi Picoult novel. I admire the extremely detailed research Jodi does for each of her books, the controversial subjects she deals with, and how she delves right into every nook and cranny of her characters’ minds. As I nibbled on a blueberry muffin, I began to read. I actually had to have a moment of silence for the way she described the sound of a newspaper being perused, “It made a nice noise, like the rustle of leaves…”
I am a writer. I don’t have a multi-million euro book deal just yet. I haven’t even written a novel, let alone had one published. And I don’t get paid for the online writing I’m doing. Sometimes, I get asked why I don’t turn my writing into a real job. The truth is, there’s nothing I’d love more than to write for a living. But I don’t want to be a reporter. Being awoken at four am to report on a devastating crime or accident, travelling to war-torn countries, and doorstepping the loved ones of the recently deceased does not appeal to me. I’m just not cut out for such a stressful lifestyle. Living on constant adrenaline is something I’m finally putting behind me and I’d rather not welcome it back into my life. There’s no doubting that these brave, determined reporters are writers too. But, as snobby as it sounds, I want to be a writer writer.
Here’s how to be a writer:
1) Do it with love
Write from the heart and readers will fall in love with what you’ve written. Don’t write what you think others want to read. Write what you know. This will make it authentic and utterly readable. And don’t just do it to become rich or famous. Write because you love it. Then, if you’re one of the lucky ones to make a career out of it, it will never be a chore. I don’t know who’s reading this blog and I’m certainly not getting paid to write it but I love doing it nonetheless. Having said that, if anyone wants to turn it into a book, I’m all ears!
2) Write, write, write
Writer’s block is a common phenomenon but don’t let it get the better of you. Don’t know what to write? Write anything! Anything at all. Jot down (or type) the first thing that comes into your head and get into a flow. The beauty of the computer is that you can return to your writing and, with the simple click of a mouse, you can edit as you see fit.
3) You don’t have to do it alone
Become part of a creative writing group. Before I went back to college, I joined a wonderful group in Newbridge called Scribblers. I quickly got into a routine of writing weekly pieces, and the encouragement and support from the other members helped me start believing in my talent. Alternatively, you could enrol in a scriptwriting or copywriting class. There are also college courses you can do, which are excellent for pushing authors to complete a piece of work and to get published.
4) Create a blog
It’s free and extremely easy to set up. And it’s less daunting than writing a book as you can start off with short instalments. The instant feedback in the form of comments is encouraging and allows you to interact with your readers. You can also keep tabs on how many views your blog is getting and which of your posts are most popular.
Show your writing to trustworthy family members and friends. They can offer you support, encouragement and constructive criticism. Share your blog posts on Facebook and Twitter to expand your readership.
Anyone can submit articles to newspapers and magazines. Not everyone gets published, of course, but at least you’ll be putting yourself out there and making a name for yourself in the media world. Some publications will even pay you for your contributions.
7) Enter competitions
Keep an eye out for any competitions you can enter. Radio shows regularly host writing competitions. I once entered a competition and had my piece read out on the Marian Finucane show, published in a book, and a couple of hundred euro were thrown my way as a result! Winning (or even getting shortlisted) will give you some recognition and a hell of an ego boost.
8. Silence the inner critic
If your internal (and extremely negative) voice has anything to do with it, you’ll never do anything constructive. Tell the part of you that’s doubting how good you are to shut the hell up and just do it!
9) Read aloud
Before publishing your blog, submitting an article, or entering a competition, read your work aloud. This allows you to see how it would look to a potential reader. If it has you laughing, crying and giving yourself a moment of silence, you’ve probably done a good job. You can then correct your mistakes and edit a bit more before you allow others to enjoy your masterpiece.
The more life experiences you have under your belt, the more you’ll have to write about. So, for the sake of good literature, get out there and get a life. No asking me twice!
Believe in your talent and never give up. You may have noticed that a lot of famous authors recount harsh tales of years and years of rejection before finally being discovered. I once heard a rumour that someone removed Charles Dickens’ name from one of his manuscripts, sent it into a publishing company, and it was turned down! So, as the old saying (or was it an Aaliyah song?) goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Writing is art too. Inspiration can come from the simplest of sources. Van Gogh created a masterpiece by painting a kitchen chair!
Images: http://weheartit.com/entry/12410178; http://favim.com/image/194059/; http://likeariot.tumblr.com/; http://holunder.deviantart.com/art/listen-feel-and-imagine-182338777?q=gallery:Holunder/6445147