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Finding my passion (for writing)

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It’s not every day that you will create something so utterly moving that it that it sets you on a pathway you never knew existed. This is what happened to me while writing the story, The Girl in the Moon (coming soon!). Not only was it my first real attempt at a short story, but it also inspired me to continue writing short stories, try my hand at a screenplay, to start a graphic novel, and even to setup this blog.

I’d always liked the ‘idea’ of writing – but had never really committed to it. I struggled in my late twenties to write a children’s book that ultimately went nowhere. I then wrote a trashy vampire novel because, well, because vampires were a thing back then just like zombies are a thing now.

That story was published by a US based ‘vanity’ publisher. Yes, in a way, I was published…but not really. After three months I received my first payment – a one dollar cheque in the post that I eventually tore up. For some reason the book is still highlighted on Amazon but thankfully since the publisher no longer exists, it is now marked as ‘currently unavailable’…and long may it continue to be so.

I eventually followed this up by writing a ghost story for a local paper in Ireland. And while that did get published, I’d found the process a drag and was glad to have it behind me…which was a pity really because the feedback I received was pretty good. None of it mattered though. My ‘writing self esteem’ at that point had plummeted. I distrusted praise and even felt like a fraud. I felt people were just being nice to me so as to not hurt my feelings…so many doubts!

It took me ten years to discover that, yes, I did actually like writing – and that I’m actually ok at it! Why the change? Maybe it’s an age thing…actually I’m pretty sure that it is an age thing because at 43 I feel more confident about myself now than I have ever done before. The internet also helped. I discovered that the world is full of people with the exact same doubts. It became clear to me that while some people are naturally gifted at writing, nobody has ever had it easy. We write, we get criticised, we get rejected, but sometimes, just sometimes, it can work out.

But rejections still do sting!

“If I may be frank — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a man’s man, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you had penned this entire story locked up at the club, ink in one hand, brandy in the other.” Snippet taken from a rejection letter sent to Ernest Hemingway.

Truth is that everybody will get rejected at some point. If we didn’t, what would be the point? Where would the challenge be? In my case, I began to look at rejections as a way to grow and develop. I began to ask myself what was it about this story that they didn’t like (they as in publishers, lit. journals, agents, etc.). And this is an important point – and one that I wish knew before – a particular story might be bad, but it doesn’t mean that I am a bad writer.

These days I have no hesitation in calling myself a writer. It is just one of several titles that I have at the moment. It’s my thing. My way of relaxing, of just letting go. Of course the doubts are also still there lurking in the back but I don’t pay attention to them anymore. I no longer fear the inevitable “so, what have you published?” question that normally comes once I tell people that I write. Truth is that I have published next to nothing. So what! It doesn’t matter as long as I am having fun.

Incidentally, I discovered a few things about myself through my writing. The first is that I struggle [a lot] with grammar. Simple past? Sure, no problem – but past perfect simple, past perfect continuous? As silly as it sounds, this difficulty has led to many wasted hours reading, re-reading, and even re-re-reading my work…until I finally cave and just commit, all the while questioning my own sanity. If you too are afflicted by this too, I found a good resource online that might help. You can find it by clicking here.

On slightly different note, I’ve also discovered that the majority of my protagonists are women…and many of them are damaged somehow. Sometimes it’s a physical disability, other times a mental instability. Could this be some form of deep seated psychosis? (Damn, there goes that niggling voice in the back of my head again!). But no…I just like writing quirky stories with a female lead. I’m also fascinated about how people perceive some of my stories. For instance, The Girl in the Moon short story is about a girl trying to survive all alone in a post-apocalyptic setting. Yes, there is some weirdness in there for sure, but many that have read it are convinced that the story is actually about person on the verge of a mental breakdown. And maybe they are right! Maybe that was my subconscious at work, secretly weaving another story into the obvious one. Whatever the case, I am just happy that people are reading my work and that it triggers different points of view.

Anyway, now that I have found my passion, I shall continue to write – really looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me. I hope this has helped inspire you too. In case you want to follow up with any ideas, have a chat, or even want to contribute to this blog, feel free to reach out to me.

In an upcoming post, I will be sharing my experiences on the whole submission process and tips/resources to help you with formatting your piece. Stay tuned!

Article written by Shane O’Halloran. Have something to say? Leave a comment below or contact Shane directly via TwitterFacebookInstagram, or email. Or, you could just buy him a coffee if you like? (AKA a pint)

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