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.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On The Train - another excerpt from Trash Fire

People were staring, she realised. From the next compartment a little boy, tugging at his mother’s sleeve with one hand and pointing at Julie with the other, had brought attention to her. The boy giggled; the mother smiled, though there was no trace of malice in the gently curved mouth. Julie gave the mother a watery smile in return then fumbled in her pocket for a tissue to wipe her wet face.

The man in the seat opposite, as in all the best movies, handed her a large, white handkerchief.

“Keep it,” he told her. “I have plenty more.”

She felt the colour rise to her cheeks. How could she have made such a spectacle of herself? She wiped her face with the hanky, then again like in all the best movies, she blew her nose loudly.

“Thank you,” she said to the man sitting across from her. “Thank you.”

The train rattled along. She leaned her elbow on the window ledge, rested her head on her hand. Her breath was still coming in uneven gasps, and she could feel her eyes burning, and she just knew her nose was like a bright red tomato.

She wasn’t even sure why she cried any more. It had become as natural to her as breathing, or eating. Throughout the day, at unexpected moments, when she was sitting still, the tears would come. Silently at first they trickled down her face, then, as they gathered momentum, her breathing would become uneven, and a sob would escape her. Before long her shoulders would heave and panic would set in. Would it ever end, this grief?

And now the ultimate shame – she had cried in public. On a train to be exact. With a little boy pointing and giggling while his mother looked on sympathetically. And a man, an unknown stranger had given her his crisp, cotton handkerchief.

The train rattled further its rhythm soothing like the rocking of a baby’s cradle. Her breathing steadied; the urge to gulp dissipated. She was able to drag herself back into reality, and thoughts of what lay ahead. She leaned her elbow on the small, silver ashtray next to the window, rested her chin in her hand, the side of her head pressed against the glass. The countryside, with a bright, September sun shining down upon it a green so sharp it hurt the eyes, darted past.

The little boy who had watched her so intently, and pointed when her sobbing had become too extreme, soon lost interest and began to groan in boredom at his mother, and to tug at her sleeve and whinge about not having anything to do. Julie smiled as she heard the mother say in a pinched, tight voice: we’re nearly there, darling. Just be patient. Oh, the lie. They had at least another hour to go. Julie expected that the mother secretly longed to give the little sod a clip or at least yell at him at the top of her lungs. That’s what mothers did when no one was around to catch them. Only in public did they talk in that awful, frustrated voice and pretend they were infinitely gentle. Julie could sigh in relief that she had left her two at home. She was free to close her eyes and speed up the journey by taking a nap. The luxury of it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Dreaded Block

When it comes to the writing process there are particular subjects that continue to intrigue me. The most intriguing being the phenomenon “Writer’s Block”. It can happen to anyone, at any time. You can be right in the middle of a novel, and suddenly, despite all the meticulous preparation, and despite being highly motivated, your mind goes blank, and there you sit, in front of your computer screen, scrolling back and forth over what you’ve written, and not one single syllable comes to mind to kick start you into the next phase. Then again it can happen right at the beginning of your novel when you’ve completed your synopsis, plot line and chapter breakdown, and you simply cannot find that suitable opening sentence.

It might even happen that you’ve completed your novel, and want to improve on that rough first draft. You know it needs improvement, you know it could be better, you feel it dragging. And yet, you can’t do a thing. You are stumped!
I have encountered the block at all the above mentioned phases and have come to the conclusion that all stem from the same problem – fear. That deep rooted fear that you just don’t have it in you. It can crop up at any time. Whether you have just started writing, or are putting that novel to bed, fear can return and paralyse you creatively.

I know I have touched on this subject before but it is such a fundamental issue I still feel I need to unravel it some more.

To move on from mediocre to marvellous fiction writing, all our fears must be faced, acknowledged and ultimately, overcome. And I suspect there’s not a single writer who hasn’t faced the fear. Of course by the time authors appear on television or are seen at lectures and signings, they have managed to move on from their fear and insecurity and appear to us perhaps to be brimming with confidence, but don’t be fooled. These authors too, have known that fear, that ‘break out in a cold sweat’ moment when they have thought they had written their last sentence and that the bubble had burst.

Seeing early interviews with J.K. Rowling you can see her fear, her insecurity and her disbelief that her books are selling like hotcakes and this kind of fear might have even prevented her from writing the next Harry Potter. See her in later interviews and she is a lot calmer, a lot more confident. She has overcome her fear and in its place she has found a true belief in her own abilities as a writer. She has the confidence to acknowledge her talent.

So how do we go from fear to self-belief? How do we jump that hurdle successfully at whatever stage it confronts us?

The first step to overcoming fear, and not only in relation to our writing, but in life too, is to recognise it. No use trying to pretend it’s not there, or disguise it as something else, this will only make it’s debilitating effect on us even worse. When fear is denied it transforms into all sorts of crippling alternatives. Those alternatives range from anger, irritation, obstinacy to depression if it is allowed to continue till it reaches chronic proportions. Ignoring fear or over-compensating will not have lasting effective results on ourselves or our writing.

So you’re blocked, and you know fear has reared its ugly head and stolen the words from you. Face it. Say it aloud, or write it down in capital letters. I AM AFRAID. Next, get specific. What are you afraid of, why are you afraid, and what has caused the fear to rise to the surface now?

Fear can be of many things. Fear of failure, of success, of criticism. Which of these is it in your case? Or is it all of these?

Fear of failure – giving in to this will certainly create failure, and will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Do nothing and your worst fear is reality. You will have failed. You will not have completed your novel to the best it could be.

Fear of success – giving in to this one is an enormous act of self-sabotage. It is nothing more than a fear of the unknown. And just think about how awful you feel right now with that half-finished novel and know that success can never feel this bad!

Fear of criticism – is the criticism of others any more painful than the amount of self-criticism you are dishing out when you sit at that incomplete work and knock yourself on the head about it? I don’t think so.

In the three situations the first step to overcoming the fear is to get back to just writing for the hell of it, totally and utterly for yourself, and because you wanted to. If you can do this you allow yourself to write any old rubbish for a while until your body and mind are retrained into the practice of writing. You will recover the Writing Process in the pure form it had when you set out on this undertaking. Know you may be writing rubbish initially, and give yourself permission to laugh at your efforts later. If you are feeling really courageous you might even allow some discerning person close to you to read these efforts. That way you will disempower your fears.

If you crash into the wall of writer´s block half way through your novel then it is particularly important to stop and examine how you are feeling, and recognise your fear. Usually at this stage the fear stems from the ensuing dive into the unknown. This is a particularly menacing fear, encompassing not only the fear of success (actually moving on and completing the novel) but also the stomach churning fear that all your careful preparation has been to no avail and that you are ultimately going to fail – fail to complete the novel, or worse still, complete it and discover it is not worthy of the time and effort that went into it.

Have faith, and give yourself permission to turn the unknown corner. Toss aside the notion of the imaginary public, and go on the journey of discovery that your story wants you to undertake, just for you.

It takes courage to write a novel, so be courageous.

Courageous people are not those who do not feel fear, they are those who feel fear and do what they have to do anyway.