So something weird happened this week: I got an email from WordPress.
Okay, so that’s not so weird. I’m involved with a few different blogs right now, and my inboxes generally contain at least 5 WordPress emails every day. The weird thing was that it was telling me someone had linked to a post on this blog, which I haven’t gone near in a number of years, and which I had almost entirely forgotten.
So I open it up, and it turns out RamisaR over on Musings of a White Rose has linked to my ancient post, Writerly Reflections, over on their blog. And I figure that if people are still linking to this blog, I should probably make the effort to look at it a little myself.
My original post talked about my introduction to writing, so I’m gonna use what I said just short of 4 years ago and also revamp it with a couple of updates.
I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember.
I’m certain almost everyone is sick of Harry Potter by now – I’ve more or less reached that point myself – but I’m of just the right age where Harry Potter was this fresh new thing when I was a kid getting into reading. The first few books were read to my by my mother as bedtime stories (in fact, I think I was too young to really remember the first book as I had to re-read it a number of years later) but by half-way through the series, I was reading them for myself. And compared to most of the other books there were for kids my age, the later Harry Potter books were h u g e. Like, you’d really know it all day if one of those bad boys were in your schoolbag because you’d be dragging yourself around by the end of the day.
Needless to say, through this love of reading came a love of writing.
I enjoyed plenty of other kids books, I should say. I was really big into Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, The Hobbit, Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series and Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. And eventually, this addiction to books transformed into a kind of need to make my own. All the way through primary school, I’d come up with endless ridiculous characters with my buddy Phillip. We had monsters, detectives, wizards, villains, superheroes, and everything else that a self-respecting kid would want in their stories. At this stage, we were convinced the work we were producing was definitely going to make it big. In hindsight, they were some pretty low-quality designs.
Eventually, in fifth class (I would have been 9 or 10 years old), my teacher stopped me after class and told me to stop writing stories about these “silly superheroes”.
These characters made their way into all manner of comics, models and short stories, and they continued to pop up over and over again for years. When my teacher finally snapped and told me to write about something more serious, I was outraged. Here I am, writing the next great work of Irish literature, and this woman comes and tells me my protagonists are silly? Something had to be done.
When I turned 13-or-so, the only writing anyone got to look at was work that had to be handed in to a teacher anyway, while my personal writing turned from gripping tales of daring do to angst-filled poems about someone in class not giving me my pencil back, or whatever was bothering me that day.
That something eventually turned out to be a spooky noire story with an edgy cliffhanger ending. “Yeah,” I no doubt thought. “That’ll show her.” But it showed nothing to nobody, and when I got my homework back the next day my feedback was something along the lines of “What happens next? Where’s the rest of the story?” This was the first time I had to learn that some people just don’t get art.
When my teens rolled around, I realised that perhaps my future didn’t lie in science fiction and fantasy, but in poetry, and the uncomfortable angst of adolescence gave me plenty of material to whinge about. Most of my (really rather dodgy) poems were about dead animals – roadkill, prey, etc – because I was going through a bit of a phase. I did write one sort-of-okay poem about a friend of mine who died when I was around 16, but that’s about it.
Still, even if a short summer job with a small town newspaper turned out not to be my big break, it certainly showed me what I wanted to do with my life, writing-wise.
My poetry phase didn’t last forever (or so I thought), and my attention shifted once again. This time, I decided I wanted to be a journalist and even took up a summer job with my local newspaper. This plan lasted until sometime around the start of my second year of university, which is also around the time I stopped writing this blog. I started writing for a few university publications in my final year of university, and became the Arts and Entertainment editor for The Gown during my Masters, but there was no real end goal.
At the same time as all of this, I started working as a freelance writer, and I think that’s probably what killed my interest in journalism. I worked with one or two great projects, a few of which I still write for out of enjoyment rather than necessity. But something in the meaninglessness of churning out “content” with the sole intention of (A) passing plagiarism checks and (B) search engine optimisation sort of destroyed some part of me.
I became incredibly depressed (though I had already been diagnosed with clinical depression long before this, so probably this just made matters worse rather than triggering some major downturn). I stopped replying to client emails and messages, even though I relied on these people for money, and they relied on me to keep their projects running smoothly.
In my head, my plan was to just live off what money I had, and when it ran out I’d end it all. I don’t know if I was ever actually going to go through with that, I know I put a lot of thought into it but I don’t know what was actually going to happen. But then, plot twist!
I finished my undergraduate degree in the summer of 2016 and graduated with first class honours. And somehow, I was offered a scholarship to complete a Master’s degree in reading and writing poetry. And just like that, I had been given another goal to strive for, another little meaning to keep me going for another little while.
And I just finished my Master’s, and don’t have a poetry collection (yet!) but have been published in a few different magazines, and I’m making plans for my next step.
So that’s where I am now, just in case you were wondering.