Monday, 26 October 2015

What's the Story | Writing

Over the last few months, particularly in the weeks of late, I have met and spoken with different people - as you do. Since the excitement that the Irish Blog Awards brought, I've been asked what exactly is the deal with this writing arrangement I've had going on. I shall oblige and attempt to condense a tale of years of dodgy pens, torn pages and a project forever "in the pipeline".

Surprise, surprise, the fiasco started as soon as I could write with those 50c pencils we all bought in national school and a free copy from Supervalu back in the day. Usual, barely legible scribbles were the foundation of a life long absolute buzz. In the beginning, I used to rephrase and rewrite the short stories I read at school in my spare time. I wrote about the minor things that happened over the course of a day in a small, frightful, fuschia notepad that had those useless lockers on the side. As the years went on and my spelling improved (you would hope), we invested in a family desktop. Little did everyone know, that the desk it was placed on, would be the creative hub for endless hours of stringing words together.

The three main ingredients, I believe make a half decent writer; imagination, a strong back-bone of reading material of all kinds and a deep set interest in the world, along with its inhabitants. My imagination was always tapped into from the get-go, mainly thanks to my father and my sister. My dad would sit beside me at night and would make up stories on the spot to put me to sleep. I always felt sorry almost for every other child I knew, because no one else could enjoy these completely brilliant legends. One of my older sisters and I used to lament about leprechauns, fairies and butterflies. We would go out in the garden at the weekends when she was home from college and count how many mushrooms we could find to predict how big a seance our little friends had. I was never afraid to rope whoever was around to read me a story before I hit the hay. Being the youngest of four by a long shot, this was a regular thing.

I was a different kind of a little person, I loved pretending. I was the type of girl that would have made a bed for her Barbies out of a Dairygold butter box and a facecloth rather than asking for one made out of plastic. Admittedly, I also had an "imaginary" friend for far too many years than I care to account for. This is a common occurrence for many creative people, so don't be having a canary on me.

Many hours were either spent travelling from one end of the country to the other or lulling around in waiting rooms, so I read and read and read. In the early years, I wasn't the quickest on the take with big words, but I wasn't afraid to ask whoever was beside me to pronounce and explain something. Vocabulary built over time, my stories got longer, books got bigger and it all got more thrilling as each year passed. 

From the age of fourteen onwards, I started attending the Scoil Acla Writer's Workshop with Macdara Woods. I wrote a blog post on it last year where I go into it in more detail. It was only when I attended those classes that I thought;


A light-bulb went off in my angst-y, teenage wiring. I let loose with the pen and made a decision to not let my own work intimidate me. I had never been a person to rebel, I stuck close on the curb along with the rules and regulations set before me. Though with writing, I could and still can, push the boundaries. By attending the reading nights and presenting my pieces, I started to make people think, I began to shed the Ordinary Plain Jane facade.

Since then, many things have been documented and morphed for viewing of beady eyes. The brilliant sister, my favourite person, is regrettably not roaming around to read and see me on this whirlwind. I haven't found someone since, who will voluntarily sing Peggy Gordan with me, dancing with sweeping brushes on the kitchen floor. But I feel she always brings a bit of luck. I was awarded Bronze for Best Youth Blog in the Irish Blog Awards last week, and it as just as much as Ashling's as it is mine. One thing I know for certain, she would have kept the celebrations going for an extra "week or ten days" as we say around here!

Between the jigs and the reels, it's been an-going process to say the least. Any craft is always developing, and there's not a day that goes by you don't learn something new. What's the ultimate goal? I couldn't tell you, it's a needle in a haystack. You might read about it somewhere, or hear it outside the door of Sunday Mass. We'll both know then, surely.

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
– E. L. Doctorow

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Standing Out | Why it's a Good Thing

Be it standing out from the crowd or following the herd, I've touched base on it before. I think it's an easy, almost passive thing to say to young people; "Stand out from the others". It is often said with little assurance and substantial proof of those "success" stories we are all looking out for. What is "success"? What defines or measures one person's achievements from another? Success, in all its forms is unthinkably vast, nearly unfathomable to measure, entirely.

Whether your interpretation of success is achieving your full potential as you and being happy with your lot, or the CEO of a major global firm zooming around in Mercedes and wearing unpronounceable labels, there is one main root that caused it. What's that you ask? I hate to break it to you, it isn't some farce, voodoo, witchcraft lark. These people quite simply, didn't give a flying notion about what people thought, they carried on with their regime. Once an inkling of success presents itself, everyone jumps on the bandwagon and asks what's the secret. 

If we were to sit around and lament our lives to the hymn sheet of other's expectations, we'd live in a time-lapsed, repetitive drone of "just alright", "doing okay", and "plodding along". Having said all that, it is becoming increasingly popular to have an "edge" of some kind. Although this said "edge", is morphing into a reoccurring niche; indie music, band t-shirts, a preference of tea over alcohol, and cats galore. Do not be mistaken, I am not making a mockery of people that are into these things, I for one enjoy all (minus the cats, sorry!). 

What do all these t-shirts, and music and others have in common now? They are materialistic objects, they are simply things.  (the cats are more than just things, I think we would all agree). Although, what is not as on trend to be associated with are the other important things; participating in events in your community/school, taking up a non-conventional hobby, taking an interest in politics (although the way the country currently is, I wouldn't blame you) or even starting your own blog. The reason why these (and more) are unpopular to the status quo is the fact that they are not the mainstream way of passing your time, and they are (sadly) often subjected to uninformed judgments from others.  

For anyone that knows me, there is very little "mainstream" about me, and I don't fit many boxes of people my age. This can be seen as an advantage, or an incredibly suffocating scenario, particularly during school-going years. Whether or which you may perceive it to be, I learned to embrace it. Does it make me any better than anyone else? It sure as hell doesn't, it's simply a curve-ball (or two) in how I see and understand things myself. Take for instance, the news. All down through the years, by both doing quite a lot of travelling from Mayo to Dublin as a child, and living with my parents, listening, reading and watching the news has become a part of my routine. From my early years, I would nearly be excited at the thought of long car journeys, if it meant I could listen to "Drive Time" on RTE Radio 1, or Seán Ó'Rourke. I started to form a liking towards Vincent Brown and watching Prime Time Documentaries with my mother. What is most interesting, when I think of all this; when I was younger, one of the most frequent things said to me was, "I'll be with you in a minute, I just want to check the headlines". Now, at eighteen, I find myself saying the exact same thing to people around me. 

This long-established interest is seen to be both strange and questionable by others. Similarly, my setting-up of this blog was also seen in the same light. But you see, as both a person and (aspiring) writer, my head would be spinning faster than the speed of any fancy yacht steered by any CEO. My thoughts would have no where to go and I would not be able to fine-tune my craft. Sure, I wouldn't be exposing myself to a lack of understanding that is still, to this day, to be found. But what I put to you is; who would I be doing the favour, if I didn't bite the bullet?

Between the jigs and the reels of writing here, of being sometimes apprehensive (petrified), of just doing what I do, this blog has gone through to the finals of the Irish Blog Awards for Best Youth Blog. Am I proud? Well, I'm grateful more than anything. But I am proud, because I got through the biggest hurdle of all; what people would think. (I have included a link to an interview I did recently below, if you want to hear a bit more about this!)

What I am saying to you is, do not be, for one moment of your life, hesitant of seizing opportunities with both hands that may come your way. The day you draw your last breath, you want to be able to say you lived your life whole-heartedly for you, and unapologetically for others. We are dealt with an unknown set of years, and subsidizing a single day out of those out of fear is, I think, one of the most human tragedies of all. 

Go out, do you, and live. In the meantime, you'll be doing yourself the biggest favour imaginable.