In five months, my debut novel, The Paris Affair, will be published in the UK. To celebrate, I've written a blog about the five reasons why I love to write.
Why do I need to remind myself of this? And what use is it to anyone else? We all have our own reasons for writing, but it's sometimes easy to lose sight of what sparked the joy in the first place.
The journey towards publication has been incredible. I count myself very lucky to be experiencing it. But it's brought new challenges - the pressure of deadlines, the weight of expectations, the inevitable feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
So what better way to quell a debut writer's nerves, and hopefully inspire others in the process, than by rediscovering why I fell in love with writing all those years ago?
1. It's a form of self-expression
I remember getting my heart broken as a teenager and scouring the bookshelves for something that would reflect what I was going through. Nothing quite fitted. Instead, I picked up a pen and wrote my first poem. From that moment, I was hooked. I could express my feelings in words.
2. It leads to unexpected epiphanies
At university, I stopped writing creatively. My desire to write was blocked by studying for an English degree, reading books to write essays, and being surrounded by scarily learned people.
After university, when I escaped to Birr Castle in Co. Offaly, I rediscovered my love of writing. I met musicians, poets, and wordsmiths who wrote for the joy of it, rather than for any academic goals. I learned to let go and see what epiphanies came my way through words. With a pen in my hand, I could understand the world and my place in it so much more clearly. The revelations came thick and fast. I still have boxes of notebooks from that time, full of feverish handwriting and honest truths.
3. It's a craft
There is a delicate balance between the spontaneity of inspiration and an awareness of the craft of writing. Once I started to enjoy writing again, I wanted to learn more. A trip to Moniack Mhor in the Scottish Highlands for an Arvon Foundation course with Mimi Khalvati and Brendan Kennelly was transformative. At the end of a week saturated with poetry, Brendan suggested I apply for the M. Phil in Creative Writing at Trinity College in Dublin.
That year studying at Trinity taught me about finding my voice and sharing it with others. I still love hearing about people's writing processes. Learning how to write is a lifelong journey, and I never tire of finding out what it involves.
4. It imbues my life with extra meaning
It was wonderful to spend a whole year writing poetry (in between working part-time), but afterwards, I was ready to step back into the world outside the college walls. Life came calling - a full-time job, a boyfriend, moving in together, making plans. Writing needs real-life inspiration, experiences away from the desk, and connections beyond the page, and it was during this time that I discovered how to make writing fit into the rest of my life.
Perhaps this was the catalyst for starting my first novel in 2003. A single poem didn't feel spacious enough for the story I wanted to write. Since then, I've mostly stuck with writing stories. To me, the imagination is like a deep river running alongside the rest of life. It nourishes, inspires, and sustains the soul no matter what the stresses and strains of the 'real' world might be.
5. It might get read one day
When I finished my first novel, I wondered would happen next. Back then, I had the Writer's Handbook on my shelf. I remember reading an article about the publishing process. It seemed so distant from the jumble of pages I'd produced.
Fast forward a few years, and I had a lucky introduction to an agent at Curtis Brown. She didn't take that first book but spotted something in my writing that she liked. Her encouragement led me to write my second book, The Girl from Amsterdam, which was published in Germany in 2021.
That agent was Rebecca Ritchie, who now works at A.M. Heath. She gave me the first inkling that maybe, just maybe, my writing might get published, and planted a seed of hope. Her unfailing support through the years of not getting published is what kept me going.
But that's another story...