Tag Archives: journalism

Into the Wild

“We’re supposed to be different. Thank goodness.”

I posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday evening along with a quote from Susan Cain’s insightful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

IMG_3812

In Quiet, Cain explores the differences between introverts and extroverts. In a society that seems to reward the confidence, charm and exuberant energy of extroversion, introverts often feel the need to step up, speak out and pick up the pace just so they too can succeed at life.

In the questionnaire at the beginning of the book, I scored a whopping 18 out of 20. This signifies that I’m more of an introvert. It means that I enjoy my own company. I need space and time alone. I recharge by spending evenings in with a book or a movie. I get energy from walks in nature and lying in the sun. And I like to sit in stillness and reflect on my feelings and the meaning of life.

I’m a thinker and a writer. And I’m sensitive. Sensitive to beauty, music and wonderfully worded pieces of prose. I’m sensitive to energy, people’s moods and violence on the television.

I feel deeply. I get depressed. An act of kindness can bring me to tears. I marvel at the many miracles of the universe. Spirituality is more important to me than material things. I’m passionate about life. But at times I feel like I’m drowning in it.

When I feel intimidated, I shut up. It can take me a while to feel comfortable around new people. On nights out, I’d rather not compete with the loud music and the din of chatty pub-goers. So I don’t. My voice just doesn’t seem to carry. If someone really wants to hear what I have to say, we have to lean in to one another.

However, when I’ve had a drink, none of that matters. Cain likens an alcoholic beverage to a glass of extroversion.

Most people aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts. I love being around people and I lead a fairly busy social life. I enjoy meeting friends and trying out new hobbies but I much prefer participating in deep conversations with one or two people rather than chatting in large groups.

I recognise the benefits of team playing and brainstorming but I work best alone in a quiet room where I can retreat, silence my phone, and concentrate.

When something is bothering me, I tend to write, meditate, read and think. Then I discuss my problems, one-to-one, with someone I trust.

I end romantic relationships if they’re not right. I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t help me flourish.

favim.com

favim.com

Last night, I watched Into the Wild for the second time. This true story is based on American adventurer Christopher McCandless. At twenty-four, Chris has fulfilled his parents’ dream of getting good grades and going to college. Then, instead of attending Harvard, he burns the remainder of his college fund, cuts up his social security and credit cards, and disappears, without a word, into the wild.

One of the reasons I love this film is because I feel it’s quite balanced in its storytelling. The different characters have different viewpoints, personalities and lifestyles.

We learn of Chris’ perspective on life. He resents the control and expectations of society and his parents. He wants to roam free. He needs to be independent and true to himself. He’s happiest when he’s diving into lakes, climbing mountains, and living off the land.

When he enters Los Angeles, he regards the skyscrapers and city-dwellers with an expression of disappointment and despair. We can almost see his soul dimming as he trudges through the metropolis. He imagines how his life could have been and he doesn’t regret his decision to break away. He can’t even stay one night there.

We also hear his sister’s version of events. She understands Chris’ reasons for abandoning the family. Her parents desperately desire a particular way of life for their son. Their intentions are good. This is the only way they know how to guide and protect him. But they’ve also caused their children a lot of pain. Ultimately, we watch them suffer too.

This movie really got me thinking. Was Chris acting selfishly? Was he foolish and naive? Or was he right to go on his own journey, to figure out his meaning of life, to really live and experience and come to his own conclusions?

busaff.com

busaff.com

I’ve often felt different. I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve felt stifled by society and I’ve agonised over the following:

What is being true to yourself? And what is running away? When do you stop living in the clouds and finally conform? When do you “settle down”?

Then there are the shoulds and norms of society. You should be responsible. That’s what being an adult is all about. You need a good job. You can’t live without money. You need your own home. When are you going to find a husband? Will you have enough time for children? For goodness’ sake, you won’t survive without a pension.

I got 525 points in my Leaving Certificate but secondary school may as well have been a battlefield for all the anxiety I experienced. I did well at swimming and athletics but competition didn’t sit well with me. I dropped out of college twice.

Truthfully, the only reason I went back to college as a mature student was because I felt I had to. How else would I become a functioning member of society?

I obtained a First Class Honours degree and received the Sunday World Cup for Best Student of Journalism with a Language. Though proud of my achievements and happy to gain approval from the people I care about, it added to the pressure I felt to do more with my life, to live up to my potential and to succeed.

And I don’t do well under pressure. So instead of applying for jobs in journalism, I threw myself into an alternative world of acupuncture, homeopathy, personal development and spirituality. And I’ve never been happier.

Of course, I still experience paralysing moments of fear. The voices in my head go something like this: What are you doing with your life? Grow up. Be normal.

So I tentatively move forwards with one eye clamped on everybody else in the world who’s doing things the “right” way. I compare, criticise and compete. I alter my behaviour and try to change who I am in the hope that I will prosper. I worry that I’m not adult enough for this big bad world of business and mortgages.

But what does “adult” mean? How “should” a 34-year-old woman live? Why must we all melt into one right way of doing things? We’re not all the same. That much is very clear.

Yes, there’s a reason why most of us follow the well-trodden path in life. There’s safety and security in the tried and tested route. Most people want to see life’s landmarks so they know where they are and what to expect around the corner.

But some of us thrive on change. The unknown excites us. Newness is revitalising. It’s what keeps that spark inside of us alight.

It’s a relief to realise that we don’t have to be the same as one another. We don’t have to compete because we each have unique gifts to bring to the world.

There’s no point trying to do things his way or attempting to be as good as her because you’re not them. You’re you.

Some of us want to climb the career and property ladders all the way to the top. And some of us are quite happy to keep our feet on the ground.

Whether we’re commuting to our permanent jobs, bringing our children to school or backpacking across the globe, we can be fully alive and true to the essence of who we really are.

Whether we’re writing fantasy novels, saving lives, cleaning the streets or designing websites, we can be the people we’re meant to be.

Whether we’re introverted or extroverted or a dollop of one and two tablespoons of the other, we are unique and perfect just as we are.

We’re different and brilliant in our all of our shade and all of our colour. We blend and we clash and we all come together in this stunning masterpiece of humanity.

We may think we know who we are. We stamp ourselves with neat and convenient labels so we can understand and make sense of the world around us. But life changes. We change. We grow and develop and we dip in and out of lots of different attributes and characteristics. Every colour of the rainbow is available to us to try on and see what suits us best.

And whether we’re paying into our pensions or collecting the dole, none of us can really know what to expect next. Nothing is certain.

The weather is unpredictable. And the terrain is constantly changing. We may want to know the exact directions to a predetermined destination. But we are all, in fact, walking into the unknown. We are all on a journey into the wild.

favim.com

favim.com

Advertisements

Some useful things I learned today…

Owls are so in this season.

The smallest-sized Starbucks’ Gingerbread Latte costs four euro!

Some people still call hats “bonnets”.

A person can be in chronic pain and laugh more than I do. 

A large chest makes you look bigger than you actually are.

The first ever text message was sent 19 years ago. It said Merry Christmas.

If you do what you love, a whole new world will reveal itself… 

You will never know absolutely everything about a person.

Everybody goes through times of hurt and grief and self-doubt.

You can love someone but find it easier to stay away.

It takes just one person’s belief in you to help you succeed. If that one person is you, all the better. 

Mariah Carey has just done a duet with Justin Bieber on All I Want For Christmas. Good to know. If I avoid the radio, department stores and supermarkets for the next three weeks, I might never have to hear it.

Teenagers use shopping centres as pick-up joints.

Sometimes, you just need space. You’ll come back when you’re good and ready.

If you start being true to who you really are, you’ll stop caring what others think. In fact, it won’t even register with you any more. 

Getting into the holiday spirit and hot toddies are synonymous.

Lots of people dread Christmas. It’s too much pressure. I don’t think that’s what Baby Jesus intended…

Others can’t get enough of it. Below is a house in Newbridge. It’s like this Every. Single. Year.

When a shopkeeper asks, “Is this a gift for somebody?”, it is not because she cares. Or because she is going to kindly offer to wrap it for you. It’s because she’s about to try and flog you a Christmas box.

I could be the next Perez Hilton. Only nicer.

You can’t beat a good instrumental interlude. 

Images: http://www.maccazine.com.au/general-information/christmas-lights-competition/; http://alligator-sunglasses.com/post/13780955850/hi-little-fellah; http://liveyoungforever.xanga.com/734450391/want-you-to-make-me-feel-like-im-the-only-girl-in-the-world/?cuttag=tru; www.flickr.com; http://fading-gently.tumblr.com/; http://favim.com/image/225426/

Being a writer (and being the only one who knows it)

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.

5) Share

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.

6) Freelance

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.

10) Live

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!

11) Believe

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