About Me

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I still feel like a teenager on the inside, unfortunately my children do remind me how old I am!! I have lived for 20+ years as an Irish expat in The Netherlands. My favourite city here has to be Amsterdam.

Writing, reading, authentic living. It's all here at The Writing Process

Welcome to my blog. Let me start by telling you that I love writing. I love the sense of vitality it gives me. I love that it helps me to make sense of the world and to the people in it. I love that it helps me become wiser, more intuitive, empathic, and most of all autonomous.

All aspects - reading, writing and observing - are what make the process complete. The essence is storytelling, and learning about
life and yourself.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Article 2. Embryo to Foetus

So there it was. My ideas were as good as anyone else’s, and it was OK for my inspiration to shoot out of everyday, dare I say, mundane events. And once that notion took root, it was as though the universe decided to work with me. Events came together; information reached me through gossip, television, chats over dinner, and an anthology of poetry.
I should count myself blessed to be Irish, even though I haven’t lived there for over sixteen years. Ireland is the land of storytellers. There is an atmosphere in Ireland that is found nowhere else I’ve been. The air trills with a suppressed passion. And because of the restraints of the church there is always the hint that one day people will stand up and scream that they are going to break free, and hang the consequences. I feel it immediately I step off the plane, and time and again I feel driven to write about it.
After a four-year absence, I decided to go home to Ireland and spend some time with my family, especially my brother, who has CP. Since his birth I have felt a special bond with him; at times I think I can feel what he feels. And on this occasion, I felt his frustration and his longing to be heard, to be understood and moreover, to be taken seriously. That was my motivation – to give him a voice. And I wanted that voice to be heard, and to capture the hearts’ of eventual readers, and the only way to do that was to wrap his existence into a page turning piece of fiction. That was the driving force behind this novel.
But knowing that I wanted to give my brother a voice, and knowing that the best way to do that was through fiction, was not a plot, was not a story. But it was a great motivator. It was the reason my mind ‘tuned in’ to my surroundings. All I had to do have faith and trust that the snippets of information I picked up would, if given the chance, fit together like a jig zaw puzzle. As it happens I didn’t have to wait long for the first thread of a plot to present itself.
We were sitting around the dinner table one evening chatting, and the topic that was on the tip of everyone’s tongue was the recent scandal involving the Catholic Church, in particular the less than honourable behaviour displayed by some priests. I was all ears. The butterflies in my stomach told me that this would be an important element in my plot development.
But there needed to be more. I needed a protagonist, someone to link the disabled and the able worlds. I wanted a totally contrasting figure to the narrator, someone to link all the characters, someone large and exciting enough to carry the desires and dreams of the disabled narrator. And at that moment, I was given a copy of Yeats’ poetry anthology, with a short bio, wherein Maud Gonne was introduced.
Maud Gonne - who was the inspiration for the exquisite love poem – He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. Immediately, I had a name for this protagonist, and a title for the book.
The Cloths of Heaven was taking shape. The sources of inspiration were normal and nothing spectacular of themselves. They did not come to me in a vision (though if this happens, great!). I did not have to visit an exotic location, or be exposed to extraordinary events. I was inspired, because I believed that EVERYTHING is potentially inspiring. My source of inspiration and the method I employ to use what happens around me, is unique to me, just as Anne Rice and Maeve Binchy each has her own source and method.
Okay, the inspiration was there. I had three characters, the pivot to the plot. I had the situation, and the environment, and I had the setting. Remembering what I had learned from reading How-to books on writing. I decided I wanted a character-based book, letting their psychological development steer the plot. I knew too, that for a book to come to life there is one element that cannot be omitted – the element of conflict. But there are several types of conflict. Inner conflict. Conflict between individuals. But, there is also the universal conflict of man against his surroundings. I was determined to incorporate all three.
And that would be the arms and legs, and the beating heart of this story.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Article 1. The Embryo

So often we hear aspiring writers complain that they simply don’t have an interesting enough life to be inspired to write a novel, theirs is a humdrum, middle of the road, perhaps even boring existence, they groan. Often they criticise their own talents, suggesting that their language usage is childish or at least lacking any multi-syllabic words, and that their sentences are short, simplistic, and unimaginative.
I too, went through this stage of self-castigation, and often started on a story, only to trash it very quickly, sinking into despair that this deep-seated desire to write was a pipe dream. Did I suffer from delusions of grandeur? Was I perhaps living in a fantasy world, where my will to write would by magic give me the words, sentences and ideas to match my grand notions?
I picked up a Maeve Binchy novel, then one by Anne Rice. I was fascinated by the difference in their approach. Maeve Binchy’s novel was firmly rooted in reality, in the mundane. Her work dealt with the everyday happenings in the lives of everyday people. Anne Rice on the other hand, describes the fantastic, the supernatural, and uses long, intricate sentences, and a flowery, romantic vocabulary to do so. Yet both are writers of merit, both are respected, and more than that, both earn a good living with their writing.
Why were both so successful, yet at the same time, so divergent? The answer was simple. They were true to their own personalities, and the source of their inspiration. I cannot imagine Maeve Binchy apologising for the subject matter, nor the style she chooses to give it form, and Anne Rice has us eating out of her hand, and believing completely in the existence of Lestat, her infamous vampire. She has us fall in love with him, desiring him as though he were a film star.
In short, no idea, no spark of inspiration is too trite to be used, as long as we use it well and stay true to our own personalities and our own styles. Had Maeve Binchy taken her idea and attempted to give it to us using Anne Rice’s style, then it would have jarred, and lost its power. By the same token, Anne Rice’s ideas would be lost if poured into Maeve Binchy’s mould.
So, using my discovery, I decided to take myself seriously, believe in myself, and have faith in the ideas that would come to me, however mundane they might seem initially.
And then the germ that was to grow and ferment into what became ‘The Cloths of Heaven’ came to me through the channels of my normal, middle of the road life, and through the experiences of those close to me. And when it came to me, I took it, and let it settle into the comfort of my mind, like an embryo bedding into the wall of the womb.
The process of division and multiplication had begun: the single idea separated and doubled and became two, then four then eight related ideas, and more, until the story unfolded and became the novel.
In the next article I will tell you about that first idea, and about the gathering of ideas that became the story, the backbone of ‘The Cloths of Heaven’