This is my blog. It’s a work in progress. A place for rambles. Ideas. Fiction. Non-fiction. Music. Images. Anecdotes. Discussion. Poetry and anything that inspires the writer in me and hopefully the reader in you. A friend/reader suggested I write a blog so here goes…
One of my fav quotes about writers is this: ‘A writer lives their life twice. Once through observations and again through reflection.’
This is how I feel most days. Reliving moments in my mind. Trying to work out the fundamentals of those experiences. Dragging the blood and guts out of them until I’ve beaten them up and massaged them into a new form, a figment of my imagination. Most people don’t give that much thought to what happens around them they just crack on with it. We writers contemplate, ruminate and steal everything we can like magpies. We collect and protect. We think we’ve figured it all out only later to realise that we haven’t and we are right back at the beginning again. It’s a endless source of joy and pain. A puzzle we must work out.
People always ask me, ‘So how do you write?’ The answer is simple, you just do. You just write. You just put the words down and that’s how it starts. You need something to work with as Emma Thompson once told a BAFTA screenwriting audience which is true. Basically you need anything you can get your hands on! It’s a fearless beginning. One in which you can’t worry about the outcome. I wish I could apply this philosophy to my daily life and just let go. Life would be so much easier!
One of the questions my agent asked during our first meeting was : ‘Why do you write?’
And my answer was simple, ‘Because I wouldn’t know how not to.’
After that he signed me. Of course, it’s not quite as easy as answering one question, finding an agent who you gel with, but that was how it progressed.
Meeting my agent was a real moment. It is in any writer’s career. I felt I had finally arrived at a destination that had been evading me for over a decade. Following years of rejections – likely upward of 50 – and the submission of two books both of which were not fully baked, I met my agent after swiping right on Tinder. Full disclosure here. He was not on Tinder and I was not single.
In a moment of absolute despair with my partner-at-the-time I downloaded Tinder just to see what my options might look like. I swiped right and so did a handsome barrister from Dublin. Lord knows how we matched he was in another country! But we did and we became friends. I told him the full story of my emotional crisis and being a true gent he became a friend.
After a few months of face timing he mentioned that he had a friend in London who was a literary agent and the rest is history. Of course winning the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 got me noticed but it wasn’t everything. I had plenty more rejections after that. My agent took the prize seriously and although he didn’t like the book I had just finished he did have the vision to ask me what I was writing next. So I told him and he bought into my future potential and has been a solid source of motivation ever since.
So, what’s the lesson here? Who knows. Swiping right can be a real blessing? The connectivity of the age we live in allows for all kinds of shit to happen? Or that throwing enough emotional momentum behind a moment will eventually pay off? I’ll choose the latter.
Having lived and worked in Istanbul for almost a decade I decided to return to the UK and retrain by doing an MA in Creative Writing at City University. That’s where the transformation began from journalist to creative writer. I won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 for the book I wrote while on my MA but it didn’t get me an agent. It got me a whole heap of more rejections. My external moderator marking that book which was my thesis went as far as saying, ‘If she could string a proper sentence together she might have half a chance.’ I took it as a challenge. I’d won the Debut Dagger. I couldn’t be that bad.
They say there is a book in everyone, but I’m not sure because sitting on your own in a room with only yourself to contend with for long periods of time is actually quite frightening. It can lead to procrastination of the worst kind, moments of serious self doubt, but it can also lead to amazing breakthroughs of self discovery through overcoming it.
For me it’s a painful process, writing. It never did come easy, but it is the creative expression I was burdened with and I’ve stuck at it regardless of the rejections. Not unlike JK Rowling. It’s a discipline that I have nurtured over time because it makes me feel a sense of self completion in a weird way. Writing transports the mind to a place of endless possibilities, but ones that I can reign in.
There are a number of reasons I think I write. Firstly, I’m fascinated by people. They excite me, inspire me, bore me, screw me over. They make me feel all kinds of emotions from the best to the worst and it is in the reflection of these experiences through writing that I hope I gain a deeper insight into the human disposition. They say writing is therapeutic. It can be. Perhaps that’s why writers think they know it all. Because they are finely tuned to explore the depths of being human, of the imagination. It’s something that other animals can’t do. To seek out a truth because in that there is a moment of kindness and compassion we can hold on to in a world that can be so cruel.
Perhaps we’re just obsessed with being constantly connected to another world, our own world. The one we have created and ultimately control. There’s a kind of peace in that. In being able to shape your own narrative. There’s a reassuring moment in writing something nasty knowing it’s not happening to you. There’s also a sense of achievement in knowing you’ve climbed another mountain of words to survive another day.
We humans are painfully aware of our own end. A friend and social psychologists believes to be happy in life we all need a mortality project of some kind. Perhaps writing is mine, but perhaps it’s just something I don’t know how not to do.
NOTE: I flew to Dublin last year and bought dinner for the man who introduced me to my agent as a way of saying thanks. It was the least I could do after years of rejection. Life can be surprising when you let it.