The Writing Process

Hi all, my apologies for not blogging here for a long, long time but believe it or not, I have actually been busy writing! I’m half-way through a ‘Begin Your Novel’ course (the time to do this, I suspect, was three years ago) and hope to dive into finishing Rachel’s story with more clarity. Deborah, if you’re reading this, we said the beginning of May for a first draft, but looking at the work I need to do that won’t be happening – sorry!

One of the other things I’ve been working on is an article about why I chose to write and my writing process. It was a great opportunity to promote myself as a writer and it will be published in the Spring edition of The Irish Wheelchair Association’s SpokeOut.  While everything I put into the article is completely true, I did make some omissions to the realities of the writing process. Here’s what a typical day might look like

9am – Arrive at my desk. My diary is open in a deliberate attempt to get me writing straightaway, complete with a pen to encourage me to jot down things straightaway. Ignore said diary and open emails instead. It’s important to know what skills my cousin endorsed me for on LinkedIn. Ooh, writing… oh yes, right…

9.30am Open Word and start freewriting. It’s great to get the old juices flowing. I love writing, it’s awesome.

10am – I did not know that your one Sarah from Corrie, Tina-whatever-her-face is, actually went out with Ryan Thomas who plays Jason. Oh, and that vicar Billy is going out with your man Daniel – wow he’s gay?! Oh all right, this has nothing to do with my novel, oops

10.20am – Back to work.

11.15am – That dryer has been beeping for the last ten minutes. I must turn it off because it’s wrecking my head.

11.30am: [ding] Who’s messaging me? Oh, it’s Ken from college. Writing back to him surely counts as work, him being a published writer and all. He’s sharing his knowledge. It’s imperative I don’t ignore him.

11.45am: 500 words written. Of pure and utter waffle! This is embarrassing, I’ve been working since half nine!

12.00pm: I’ve spend the last fifteen minutes rocking back and forth in my office chair, trying to calm myself down. But I feel I’m failing as a writer, and failing at life. Who did I think I was,  trying to be the next Margaret Atwood? I wonder did she ever feel like this. I’m going to quickly google and find out

12.15pm: Nope, probably not. I mean, look at all the books she’s written. Bet she didn’t spend all her time googling all her favourite authors. You know what? This internet’s nothing but a bloody distraction. I’m going to disconnect altogether.

12.55pm: 300 more words. Not bad if you omit the fact that I’m supposed to have my novel finished by the end of May. I feel sad. Cue more chocolate.

1.05pm: Nooooo, what is my laptop doing? Updates?! I don’t remember agreeing to this time. ‘Preparing to configure: 3%’. Why are you doing this to me?

1.45pm: Alison will be home in fifteen minutes but thank God the bloody laptop has finished updating itself, though what difference it makes I don’t know….. Oh no… no no no…my work, where is it? I’m opening Word but not seeing it… Recover unsaved files… no, that’s not it… agh! [enter string of expletives here]

2pm: Make note in my diary to write blog about my crappy day’s work, but maybe wait until I find it funny.

Of course, not every day is like this (if it were I wouldn’t bother writing at all) and if I had my wish, I’d be more organised and productive.

Then again, I’d also love to move to Australia, but that mightn’t happen anytime soon either.

 

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Man, I feel like a writer…

I am writing this blog today in the hope that after I do so, the inspiration that I need to fix the middle of my novel will magically appear and afterwards my office will feel like it’s full of unicorns and rainbows.

It’s been two years since I left my job and decided that I wanted to be a writer. I wasn’t under any illusion that doing this would ever make me rich. It wasn’t the money I was seeking, or fame or recognition or anything like that. It was the sense of feeling useful, productive, being able to see on a blank page exactly what I’d produced that day. Having tangible goals. Doing the unthinkable and throwing myself out there, feeding myself to the wolves.

One thing that I did wrongly anticipate was having a real sense of pride in what I do. I’m ashamed to say that although I try to convince myself otherwise on a daily basis, part of me feel like a giant fraud. Especially when people ask how the novel is getting on (‘How long have you been writing it now? Two years?! You must be nearly finished.’) Nope, nowhere even close. I now realise that I probably should’ve started with something slightly more manageable, like a collection of short stories, but I can’t backpedal now. I’ll finish this book if it kills me! (and by the looks of it, it probably will).

Another frustrating aspect of my life right now is that I can’t decide whether I should focus on activism or writing more. Obviously, in writing the novel, I’m tackling both at the same time which, if I wrote it properly, could start a whole new conversation about how we perceive disability as an issue in Ireland (okay, perhaps I am being a little overambitious, but better to aim too high than too low, right?). But then I can feel myself being pulled towards being a full-time activist, always trying to make a difference, and I think to myself: God almighty, what is it I want?!

I’ve also found myself looking at the job section in the paper/on websites a bit more lately and every time I do so, I can physically feel myself trying to repress my urge to write. You said that if you weren’t getting a steady income by the middle of this year, you’d quit. This makes me turn cold. Inner voice, stop talking out of your behind! I can’t quit. People will laugh at me, think badly of me, I’ll have to start all over again and anyway, if I’m ready to quit, what is this magical force that keeps bringing me back to the keyboard?

Maybe it’s organising an event to honour Irish Disability Activists that has me frazzled, but I have to admit that being involved in this project has prompted me to think about the legacy that activists such as Martin and Donal have left to us. I look at them and others, and at what they achieved and failed to achieve for us, and remember their unwavering passion and I think, how did they never lose their passion? How did they and so many others keep going even when they were told they were wrong? They used their voices with confidence; I hide behind a computer screen.

With my words, where I feel safe.

I know that I’m probably going to return to the workforce, sooner rather than later, but I’d rather do it with something to show for myself. Something tangible, preferably a novel or some kind of written portfolio. Something to leave behind. A legacy.

And I suppose, isn’t that what activists and writers have in common: the irrepressible need to leave their mark on the world? Seems they’re not so different, after all.

The Innocence of Anna

Yesterday, my dad called in and delivered an unexpected surprise: an old newspaper article from 2001, written by two of my Transition Year classmates about the performance of my play, Waiting for Anna, in the Sacred Heart School. The paper itself is now tatty, dog-eared and smells damp, but the memory of that period of my life is as clear and fresh as if I were seventeen years old again.

 

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Aforementioned Article published in the Offaly Express, 5 May 2001

 

A year before, I was sixteen, getting ready  to sit my Junior Cert with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I hated study at the time (yes, believe it or not) and the prospect of going into fifth year made me feel sick.  So, in spite of the fact that I would be nineteen leaving school, a year older than 90% of my peers, I decided to do Transition Year and chill out. Little did I know that there’d be little chilling involved!

To get into Transition Year, there was an interview process. I was nervous and when it came to my turn, I was asked what skills I had to offer either by way of the Mini Company or other projects. Before the thought of writing a play had crossed my mind, the idea fell out of my mouth into the thoughts of Ms F, who was interviewing me to determine if I was a suitable TY candidate. Within twenty-four hours Ms H, the drama teacher, had sought me out and congratulated me on committing to write the TY play. It was madness. The only play I’d ever read was Romeo and Juliet, and I suppose Waiting for Anna does share similar themes: two teenagers falling in love against their parents’ wishes, running away to be together. Thankfully nobody dies; that’d be a tad extreme.

I set to work in the summer of 2000, spending all my time at the computer typing, composing, tittering to myself. I decided to have fun because I didn’t think anyone was ever going to actually read it, let alone play it out on stage. I got to know all the characters individually, each one based (and named after) someone I knew and loved. I laughed out loud, I sobbed into my chest. The first draft was completed on the 13 September 2000, at twenty pages long.

Writing Waiting for Anna was the most pure writing experience I’ve ever had. I had no perception of myself as a writer; it was just something I wrote. I never thought to edit or censor myself either, and all in all Ms H took very little out. Handing it over to be read by my classmates is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In the beginning, they  didn’t know I’d written it and felt free to pull parts of  the dialogue apart and make it their own, although these occurrences were rare. As the writer I was more than happy to walk away and leave my friends to their  own interpretations, but then Ms H insisted that I co-produce the play as well.

Anna consumed me. In many ways I became her. She was the unwitting victim of psychological and financial abuse at the hands of her boyfriend Tom, but this wasn’t a straightforward ‘good vs evil’ story. Tom’s life had been hard, whereas Anna came from a privileged background. Tom wasn’t evil; in fact he had a lot to be angry about: having to leave school early, losing his mother and bound to support his hapless, unemployed father. All he wanted was control over his life. And believe it or not, even though I wrote the bloody play, I can only understand Tom now, nearly sixteen years later.

And here I am, sixteen years later. trying to forge a career for myself in writing and finding myself envious of that confident seventeen year old who didn’t know any better. I miss her. She wasn’t self-conscious about every little thing that she wrote. She didn’t care who she offended as long as her message got out there. She would’ve had the confidence  to throw herself out there at the mercy of an unreliable audience.

She wouldn’t have hordes of short stories hidden away on her laptop, never to be read by anyone.

She would have finished her novel months ago without giving two flying figs how it would be received, if it made sense or if people would relate to the main character.

Some people become less self-conscious as they get older, but I seem to have become more so. A lot of it has to do with being a disabled parent, but that’s not the whole story. I’ve been told, both by people who know me and people who don’t, that their favourite blogs and stories of mine are ones where I share my own experiences. I do believe that the best writing has passion and personality and reveals a bit about the author, and yet doing so makes me nervous. Every time I press that ‘publish’ button up there, for a second I feel physically sick. Why do I do this to myself? What if I’m being annoying, repetitive, or coming across as self-righteous? Is it time to revisit the idea of getting a normal office job, and ignore the little voice that says I’m happier as a writer?

Obviously, owing to a lack of time-travel facilities, I’ll never be seventeen again, but hopefully that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn how to write again without the burden of self-consciousness.

As my friend used to say ‘what other people think of you is none of your business.’ Maybe, one day, I might fully agree with her.

 

I am a WRITER!

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‘So, what do you do?’

This is a question I get asked all the time, and although it’s nearly been two  years, I’m still embarrassed by it

Yesterday I agreed to do an interview with an undergraduate studying for her final year in Psychology in DCU. She was a lovely girl, ambitious, and easy to talk to. She reminded me of myself in my younger days.

She wanted to examine the factors that influence or hinder people with disabilities in accessing employment. I knew it would be a little cringey; I’m ten years older than her, practically a relic, and I’ve voluntarily thrown myself back down the career ladder (not that I was far up to begin with, but anyway).

She asked me if I’m actively looking for work, and I said yes. (Three rejection letters this month alone, in fact). I know what kind of angle she was looking for: my employer’s premises wasn’t accessible, I needed extra technological accommodations, I would become fatigued if I had to work full-time (there’s an element of truth to all of these). But these were not my sole reasons for not looking for work.

Puzzled by the end of the interview, my companion asked me again, ‘So, is there anything else I need to know? Like what do you do in your spare time?’

I shrugged. ‘I’m pretty active in the Independent Living Movement,’ I said, then I lowered my voice, as if I was divulging a dirty secret. ‘I’m also trying to write a novel.’

My companion perked up. ‘You what?’ she stammered.

‘I’m working on a novel. I don’t know how it will turn out, but it’s taking up a good deal of time at the moment.’

My companion shook her head. ‘Fair play. That sounds like a lot of work.’

‘Well, it’s certainly not as easy as I thought it’d be when I started it!’ She  laughed, and I relaxed.

I think nowadays as mothers, a lot of us feel pressure to prove that we can do and be it all. I’ve been  at home with Alison for two years, and working on my writing in this time. This way I can have the best of both worlds. I can work as much or as little as I am able. I’m pretty happy, but still wary of how people perceive my choice to do this.

And to be honest, I don’t know why I care. For now, I’m doing something that is working out well for me and my family.

I don’t know if this will work out, if my novel will ever get published or if writing will ever be the career I’d imagined it to be.

But for now, I am a writer, and a mother, and delighted to be able to do both.

My 2016 Appraisal

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Because I’m now my own boss, I have to monitor my own progress. This can be a disaster. Sometimes I think I’m doing much better than I actually am, while other times I think I have failed miserably at life. So, in trying to determine whether 2016 was a success or a flop, I did what any smart self-employed* person would do: I made a list of my original goals and did a realistic assessment of how I performed and where I need to improve. Here goes:

 

(1)    Get into shape

Ah yes, this old chestnut. I joined Aura Leisure Centre in Tullamore in November 2015 and for a while went twice a week, once a week, once a month… I’m doing my physio twice a week/when I remember but I recently purchased a treadmill which I use at least four times a week. Or I was, until I came down with this horrible virus thing that is doing its best to wipe out the Irish population. I admit the last time I used it was two weeks ago. DON’T LOOK AT ME!

Verdict: Fail, I know, fail. But I’m trying. God loves a trier, right?

 

(2)    Write a novel

I saw how award winning novelist Louise O’Neill wrote two novels in as many years and thought hey, we were in the same class once upon a time, so logically that should mean… Nothing. It means nothing. I will not be publishing two novels in two years, or possibly ever, for that matter. This novel is my baby, so much so that I hate telling people about it for fear that they’ll say it’s unpublishable. I also have to write the middle of it which I’ve been procrastinating by writing shitty little blogs like these.

Verdict: Well, I’ve worked on  the same project for eighteen months, and I haven’t deleted it – that counts for something, right?
 

(3)    Give up chocolate

Yeah, this hasn’t happened. I will be the embodiment of Death by Chocolate. I have zero self-control. In order to be successful at this in 2017, I must somehow get rid of the four remaining boxes of chocolates lying around the house first. Once these are gone, I’ll have a fighting chance. It’s only logical.

Verdict: Fail.
 

(4)    Update this blog regularly:

Firstly, I ask you to discount the first six months of the year. I was blogging elsewhere, on a far less accessible website (all hail WordPress). July and September were not great, admittedly, but considering I’ve been working on a novel as well, I don’t think it’s been too shabby… right?

Verdict: Pass (Yay! Go me)
 

(5)    Find a new job:

(Job as in paying job) No I haven’t done this yet. Bad Sarah. But I have done a job interview skills course and a CV preparation course so, you know… Hopefully in another twelve months… (Of course part of the problem is that I should be trying harder. I know, I know, my husband is so lucky to have me)

Verdict: Meh…

 

(6)    Do a Creative Writing Course:

Yes, I did this, and got a Distinction Diploma in Creative Writing. That’s something I suppose….

Verdict: Pass.
 

(7)    Start driving:

No this hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve passed my theory test, so it’s probably advisable to stay off the road in 2017.
 

(8)    Learn how to cook a meal for the freezer that doesn’t involve mince:

Yup, I’ve done this. Beef stew! (With beef pieces, not mince). And……… shepherd’s pie (oops, that involves mince). I know, my culinary skills are just fantastic.
 

(9)    Cut down on social media:

Aw, but then how would I share my literary genius with you all? I did close my Facebook account for like half an hour. In my defence I permanently deleted my page a few weeks ago, (or so they claimed) but when I signed back in I was back online, no questions asked. I think it’s time to admit that social media owns us.

 

(10)Be the best goddamn armchair activist I can be: 

I’ve passed this with flying colours I think. When I was researching the progress of the disability movement in 2016, I had to look no further than my own Facebook page. It looks like my old job (which included raising awareness of disability issues on social media) is going to take longer to leave me than previously thought. The difference between sharing stuff on my own page and work’s page is that I don’t hold back in giving my tuppence on what I read. I suspect people are bored of me but I don’t care. I’m committed to the perusal of equality for people with disabilities. No more, no less. We’ve also made progress in ensuring that the recommendations as outlined in our Access Review (that is, the Laois/Offaly Leader Forum’s Access Review) has been implemented. I’ve also committed to helping the National Independent Living Movement in any way I can.

 

Overall verdict: Not a bad auld year. Must try harder** in 2017. Happy new year!

 

 

*desperate, approval-seeking writer

**way, way harder

The Elusive Word – Poem

 

Words? words? Where are you? I can see
Your shadows lurking behind that great big wall in front of me,
Whispering and giggling like schoolgirls in the yard,
Can’t we just be friends? Must life be so hard?

Words, oh words? Come out, come out to play,
I’ve only a short time frame, I’ve not got all friggin’ day,
So let us all cooperate and jot down a line or two,
Why can’t you be as kind to me as I have been to you?

WORDS? Come on now, I won’t chide you again,
You better come quick smart when this paper meets my pen,
You were so excited when my bum cheeks hit the loo,
And now there’s only silence – WHERE the **** are you?

Fine, then. Be like that. No, really – I don’t care!
Stay away forever! Only come back if you dare!
It’s not as if I hope to depend on you for a living,
And that when you come skulking back, I’ll always be forgiving.

Words, I know you’re in there, but please, do not leave;
Perhaps a good night’s sleep will grant me some reprieve?
I know we fight and argue, we don’t always agree,
But we work so well together, don’t you think, you and me?

Words, just come back – I want us to be friends,
We can talk it over, I want to make amends.
Please don’t make me write a shitty poem just for the sake of writing,
Otherwise people will likely guess that we’ve been fighting.

Oh crap. Oh well, tomorrow’s another day,
Let’s hope by then my dear old muse can think of things to say.

How writing saved my life

It’s on days like today, when the house is quiet except for the squeaking of my swivel chair and the hum of the washing machine that I wonder whether it was such a marvellous idea after all to hand in my notice and quit a job where, if I’m honest, would’ve kept me forever as long as I did my job and didn’t cause too much trouble.

And, to be fair, it wasn’t a bad auld job either. I did a bimonthly newsletter. I loved working directly with our clients. I did booklets, a film documentary, a fashion show, even a twenty year celebration event. By the end  of it I was left wondering what else I could do. I was out of ideas, and I didn’t want to waste their time and my own plundering along with nothing to show for it. Not good for the company, or my ego.

Indeed, they say that a lot of the reason that people write is for a good ego massage, and being honest that’s true. There’s nothing that makes me smile more (apart from my husband and daughter, of course) than seeing nice comments under my blog or the likes flying in on Facebook and Twitter. (Yes, everyone,  there’s a subtle hint in there somewhere – can you find it? I need your approval as much as I need oxygen)

But writing can also be therapeutic. It can help a writer make sense of himself/herself and his place in the world. It’s often a medium through which thoughts can be transferred through the safety of a piece of paper or computer screen, without having to face people, without the (immediate in my case) fear of being misunderstood.

I wrote here before in a blog called ‘Facing my Demons’ (9 December 2014) about the agonising time we had after having Alison, about how we were closely scrutinised, how we felt alone  and how we could tell no-one how we felt or what we were going through. Unfortunately, this contributed to me developing Post-Natal Depression. Feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, hopelessness? Definite signs of PND. Did I go to the doctor? No. Tell anyone the full truth of how I was feeling? No. That would’ve been the sensible thing to do, wouldn’t it? The fact was that I didn’t know how exactly to describe these feelings when I didn’t understand them myself. After flying off the handle one night, and leaving home, vowing never to come home again, I realised that I needed help. But I’d had counselling before, several times, and the experiences were largely negative. I didn’t feel I could go and tell a stranger my innermost fears. They would judge me, maybe think that I was an unfit parent.

Instead, I took two months off work, and within a week I was already starting to get bored. So I took out my laptop and starting typing out the first thing that popped into my head, much the same as I did when I started writing at the age of seven. No filters, no censoring myself. The words just flew out, like long-term imprisoned dragons celebrating their freedom. Seeing how I felt in black-and-white in front of me made me feel complete. This was me, and how I felt. It wasn’t disgusting, it wasn’t abnormal – in fact it was normal and understandable. Taking ownership of those words made me feel like myself again. When I started the exercise, I thought that I had reached thirty without achieving anything much, but when I read back how I’d been to college, held down a job, got married, had a daughter, lost my mum, been terrorised out of Portlaoise, a lot of things began to make sense, and I started to truly understand who I was and how much I meant to my daughter and husband, and my family and friends.

I’ve been out of ‘official’ work for a year now, and like every mother up and down the country I’m racked with guilt. You feel guilty if you are working, and feel guilty if you aren’t – you can’t bloody win, can you? (Well, I am working, I’m writing a novel. If you’ve seen the Family Guy sketches where Stewie asks Brian how his novel is going, you might appreciate how it feels to be me on a daily basis.) But I am happy. I’m determined to make a writing career for myself. And I have to stop comparing myself to others and instead remind myself that I’ll get there in my own time, and also tell myself that I’ll get another job, at some stage.

For now, however, my main job is to stay well and to be the best mum I can be to that beautiful rascal of mine. And it’s a job that I love and that I take more seriously than any other job I’ve ever had.

Writing is torture. Where am I going wrong?

Six months ago, I had a sudden epiphany. I’m a PRO for a disability organisation, and I used to really enjoy writing. I wrote a play when I was sixteen, and studied English for four years in Trinity College. I think the notion to write more was inspired by the fact that two (awesome) people I went to college with, Louise O’Neill and Ken Mooney (check out their work, it’s fab) have both had their books published in the last two years. Feeling more than a pang of envy, I decide to knuckle down and take writing seriously. I have an English Degree, how hard can it be, right? And yet, every night, I sit at my laptop and somehow no work gets done.

I’ve decided I’m sick of this cycle of unproductivity and that it’s time to pin down where I’m going wrong, in the hope of having some miraculous breakthrough and becoming the best writer in the world. Let’s study my writing routine.

9.45pm: Little one’s in bed. Time to knuckle down and maybe finish the journalism assignment I started three months ago.

9.55pm: There’s some really good stuff on thejournal.ie. ‘Five ways to tell if you are truly Irish’ and ’20 expressions only  the Irish know about’ is riveting reading. I’m sure it will come in handy for my upcoming article/blog about International Women’s Day, which took place a week ago.

10.10pm: Okay, stop messing around now. Close off Internet Explorer  and open Microsoft Word. I write/freewrite for about ten minutes every night, to get the proverbial juices flowing. I look at what I wrote the night before and think, God, was I drunk or something? Type more random shit in the hope that the good stuff is yet to come.

10.35pm: The Eastenders theme tune thuds behind the closed kitchen door. Feeling smug because I don’t watch it any more. I just annoy my husband afterwards by asking a million questions about it before bedtime. I know, deep down, he doesn’t mind (much)

10.45pm: Do we have any chocolate? It might give me the energy to concentrate.

10.50pm: I have eaten too much chocolate. Think a toilet break may be in order. That way I can wash my face and regroup.

11.00pm: I seriously need to lie down, but I can’t. I will persevere, even if it kills me. I shall not be defeated. People with disabilities do ‘triumph over adversty’ best, right?

11.10pm: Look over the ramble I did an hour ago, in the hope that I can pull something out of it. Yes, there might be, if my audience skim-read, or are incredibly interested in my to-do list for the week.

11.20pm: Yay! I am actually doing my assignment now! I am in the zone, I am truly a genius. I am finally waking up. I will persevere until this assignment is done. I pulled all nighters in college and I’m still here. Sure I had a baby three years ago and was able to push through sleep deprivation and night feeds. And all I have to do is either finish my assignment, or write a blog: something, anything. It should be easy in comparison to what I’ve had to achieve in the past. (I take a moment to admire the many times I’ve triumphed over adversity. Gosh, I’m just great)

11.35pm: Is the dryer finished now? *checks* No. It’s okay though, it gives more time to do some work and finish things off. Time really is a gift, hidden in the least obvious of packages.

12.00am: Are the clothes dry now? *checks again*. Yup! Thank God. I am bloody exhausted. I can’t feel my arms, but that’s okay. I’m just shattered from all the great work I’ve been doing for the last two and a half hours. I’m pretty great, when I think about it. I wonder would they cast a genuine person with a disability in the cinematic depiction of my life story. If not, I think Cate Blanchett might be an adequate substitute. (ahem, I haven’t given this any thought, honest). Oh well, time for sleep. Ahhhh.

1.30am: *wakes in a sweaty panic* Aggghhh! My assignment is still overdue! I haven’t written anything at all! What was I doing for two and a half hours?!

JP: (beside me when I wake with a start and probably kick him): You okay? What’s wrong?

Me: (deciding my husband deals with enough crazy from me without adding to it) Er,  spasm…

So, people, this is my writing routine. Where am I going wrong? Answers on a postcard please.

Why I’m writing again

It would be incredibly pretentious of me, having started writing again only four months ago, to say that I would love to write full time. I’m certainly no JK Rowling or Marian Keyes or Cecelia Ahern. Yet, the more time I spend with my ridiculous thoughts, the more I find myself leaking them onto this page and, more specifically, this blog. And the more I feel that, Yes, this is what I want to do.

From a very early age, I have been acquainted with the written word. My mother, fearing that I would not be accepted into the local mainstream school, taught me to read at the age of three. I was reading before I was potty-trained at the ripe old age of five. When I was in Junior Infants, I had already read all of the class readers. I was bored, which the teacher was not expecting.

I have always been encouraged to write. At a basic level, I was given an electric typewriter at school, and it was through using it that I communicated my basic human needs, such as the need to go to the toilet. I had to type out all the answers to the teacher’s questions, as my speech was on a par with someone who was heavily inebriated. I remember, even at this age, thinking how degrading it was. As far as I was (and still am) concerned, I can talk, I do my best to be understood. It’s up to those to whom I’m talking to, to make an effort to listen.

Even now, however, this doesn’t always work in practice.

When we were making the RTE Documentary, ‘Somebody to Love’, I made it quite clear that my speech was the only part of my disability that I would change, because I feel that people tend to link my slurred, incoherent speech with my cognitive ability. For example, if I have to make a phone call to someone I don’t know, they tend to ask me to put my parents on the phone, or they hang up on me. ‘Call back when you’re sober’, ‘Is there anyone there with you’? ‘Listen, I’m hanging up because I don’t understand what you’re saying,’ are pretty standard responses when I call somebody who doesn’t know me. I dread phone calls, and firmly believe that every single person on the planet should have email or text. So. Much. Easier.

It’s been twenty-five years since I started primary school, and a lot has changed since then. I use a laptop instead of a typewriter, and I can make myself understood when needs be. I’m a wife and a mother; instead of being a dependent, I’m heavily depended upon. I’ve a degree in Trinity and relatively good experience of the working world. Yet, I’m still perceived by (some) people who don’t know me as a victim of unfortunate circumstances, who will never enjoy a decent quality of life; who is in some way inferior or lacking.  I endure the staring, the tutting, the ‘isn’t it terrible, the poor pet’, because to verbally object would be futile, like throwing petrol on a roaring fire.

And this is why I’ve started writing again. Admittedly, it would be a bonus if, one day, it became a way for me to put food on the table. For now, I’m just happy that the writer’s block is gone and I’m able to write once more, knowing that at least my words will be understood, even if I’ve nothing of importance to say.