The Second Draft.

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I’ve finally finished editing the first draft of 1:58 and if there is anything I have learnt from this experience of using a red pen on my own work it is this – I can be brutal. Many writers say that they don’t like to ‘kill their darlings’ but I found it quite easy to use my inner-editor to cross out sections that didn’t work, be brutally honest about my use of clichés and accept that there were parts of my novel that just didn’t work.

I had a dream a few nights ago about my novel, when I woke up I realised all of the mistakes I was making with my story and I quickly jotted them down. I’m going to make some major changes, from the name of the novel to the events that take place in the narrative. It’s still the same story in many ways and I am keeping the characters that I have grown to love but the novel didn’t excite me when I read it back. If it doesn’t excite me, then it’s definitely not going to excite a reader.

This is the first time I have completed a novel and edited my own work, so it’s an entirely new process for me. I am excited to get started on the second draft, it may take three or four drafts before this novel is ready but I’m willing to put the hard work in to really create the best story I possibly can. No one said it would be easy. Ernest Hemmingway once said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” A little dramatic but he definitely has the right idea.

 

 

 

 

Breathing New Life Into An Old Story…

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In 2014, when I was studying Creative Writing at university, I decided to take part in something called NaNoWriMo. A writing task to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Despite my lack of belief in myself, I managed to do it. I spent a few weeks beforehand writing a plan, I had detailed questionnaires on all of my characters, I was ready to go. I celebrated when I reached the word count. I actually completed a novel! Yay me!

Then, I left the story alone. It sat on my USB for two years, yes you heard right, TWO YEARS! I guess I didn’t have much faith in my story, I thought it was rubbish and didn’t want to read it ever again. Until one day. I don’t know what pushed me to do it but I decided to read my story to myself. As I scrolled through the pages, I realised it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Although my inner editor had already started to rewrite the story in my head, I saw a few moments in the story that had true potential.

I printed off my manuscript and took out a red pen. I highlighted sentences that worked, crossed out sections that didn’t and scanned the manuscript for inconsistencies and spelling mistakes. I’m still in the process of editing the novel but once I’m done, I’m going to start my second draft of 1:58. I’m breathing new life into an old story and I couldn’t be happier about it 🙂

 

 

 

The Muse & Me

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Credit: Oprah.com

I’ve always had a turbulent relationship with my writing muse. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for two years. After graduating with my degree in Creative Writing, I decided to give my writing brain a rest. I had spent the past three years juggling poetry, stories, scripts and essays in my mind, so I simply stopped. The problem was, I didn’t know how to get started again.

I’ve made so many attempts over the past two years to get into the habit of writing regularly. After a while, I realised that forcing myself to write was only decreasing my enjoyment for it and I should just let go and wait for my muse to return when I was ready.

Well, now I’m ready. I woke up one morning with an idea burning at the front of my mind. I couldn’t get to my notebook quick enough! I thought it was a fluke, but a few days later, I started writing in my pink journal, which is a mixture of poetry, story ideas and random thoughts that inspire me.

The ideas started to pour out of me effortlessly. When I didn’t think too much about when I would start writing again, my mind was clear enough to allow ideas to develop. I have a large stack of Writing magazines to read and without even thinking about it, I have started to make my way through them. I’ve also decided to print off the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2014 and edit it. I am reading and writing again and I couldn’t be happier.

There’s a small part of me that has been missing for the last two years. I am a writer and although I have been occupying my mind with other things, getting a job, relationships, family, friends, starting my own magazine and discovering my love for teaching, I feel whole again now that I’m writing stories and coming up with new ideas.

When my writing brain is active, I feel like a child again. I cast my mind back to the excited little girl, sticking out her tongue as she scribbled stories in Woolworths notebooks and I smile. Not a lot has changed. I’m all grown up now but the burning desire to create stories is still very much a big part of who I am. I allowed ‘real life’ to grab my attention for a while, but now that I am in a place of contentment, I am ready to make room for writing again.

A Story To Tell

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It’s been a long time since I had a story to tell. Writing stories and poems has always been a big part of my life but over the past two years, I’ve been doing it less. I would only feel inspired in small doses and I felt like I didn’t have the confidence to write well any more.

Today I woke up and decided to finally get an idea on paper that has been brewing in my mind for the past couple of months and it felt good. It’s a novel, in the planning stages but at least it’s something. I’ve decided to stop putting pressure on myself with my writing. Instead of giving myself deadlines and expecting too much, I’m just going to write, for fun, like I used to.

I’ve never lost my passion for writing, just my motivation to do it. If I only write my novel when I want to instead of when I feel I have to, I will probably start to enjoy the process again. In time I will get my confidence back and writing will become a daily part of my life again. No matter how much I write, I will always call myself a writer because I believe that writing is not a profession, it’s a lifestyle.

The amazing thing about writing is there is the freedom it brings me. There is no right or wrong, no rules on how something should be. I feel something strongly and I write about it. I create a character in my mind and write their story. I love to explore the beauty and tragedy of life, the questions I want to answer, the places I want to go through my writing.

I’m excited by my latest idea, I have a good feeling that this could be the story I want to tell but if it isn’t then that’s okay, there is plenty of time for me to try different stories and to grow and learn as a writer.

 

New Year, New Adventures

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At the beginning of every year, I set myself new goals to achieve, list a few things I want to change about my life and reflect on the year that has passed. This year, I hope to change the direction of my career, spend more time doing the things I love and improve my health and wellbeing.

The first day of January set the tone for the new adventures I want to have this year. Me and my boyfriend took a trip to Vienna to celebrate New Year. We were only there for two days but we had such an amazing time, it has consumed me with wanderlust to visit as many places as possible this year. No plans are set in stone as of yet, but we hope to go back to Dublin to celebrate our six year anniversary in February. We also want to take a trip to London in the spring and Barcelona in the summer.

I’m focusing on improving my wellbeing this year, both physically and mentally. I can be lazy at times but I really need to start pushing myself to be more active and choose healthier food options. I finally realised at the end of 2015 that my mental health needed to be addressed. I’m starting therapy in the next couple of days and I hope to be one step closer to an anxiety-free life.

I’ve also been contemplating a new career choice for a while now. From the moment I enrolled on a Creative Writing course, I wanted to work in the industry. I pictured myself working in an office 9-5, writing all day and getting paid to do it, nothing seemed more wonderful, but now I have experienced it, even if it is only for two days a week, I have changed my mind.

I feel strongly that if I lived in London, I would be working for a big magazine or working in a publishing house, but there’s no point in talking about the what if’s. The fact is, I don’t live in London, I have exhausted the opportunities where I live, I’ve been on so many interviews and failed to get any further, I have spent the past few years building up a writing portfolio, I’ve done internships and worked for free. I finally found a part time job where I write and get paid for it and it hasn’t made me happy like I thought it would.

I no longer feel the burning passion inside of me to write for myself. All I seem to do at the moment is write articles and blog posts for other people. It’s been a long time since I wrote a short story or a poem, or even attempted to explore another novel idea. I thought by turning my passion into a career that it would be make me happy, but now I realise that this career choice is the root of my unhappiness. I feel unfulfilled, bored and insecure about where I am right now in my career, something needs to change.

For the past six months, ever since I taught at the local hostel, I have been thinking about a career in teaching. Something sparked in me that day and I haven’t been able to shake the feeling. Maybe that’s what I should be doing? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in an office, staring at a computer screen. I want to be challenged, do something new every day, inspire other people’s lives and feel like I have a purpose.

That’s what I’m struggling with right now, my purpose. I thought I knew what I wanted and who I wanted to be but now I’m starting to doubt myself. The choices that I make this year will effect the rest of my life, which is why I’m holding back on making a decision until I am certain of what I actually want. I know this year will be a challenging one but I want to enjoy every moment of it. I want to travel to places I have never been, I want to start writing stories again, I want to push my fears aside and start seeing every obstacle as a chance to start a new adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

A Change Of Heart

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I will always be a writer. No matter what my job title is or what I do during the day, writing is my passion and I wouldn’t be ‘me’ without it. However, recently I’ve started to feel less like a writer. Maybe that’s because I haven’t really been doing much ‘writing.’ You see, a few months ago I was feeling lost, I had no job, I was on the dole, still missed being at university and had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Then, something good happened. I got a part-time job working for an online magazine and they were paying me, yes, finally, I thought!

Everything started to fall into place after that, or so I thought. I started to volunteer as a Creative Writing Workshop Mentor at a local hostel and I decided to start my own online feel good magazine called Zest For Life. I thought I was finally going down the right path, until I realised that something was missing. I was no longer writing. I was filling up my time with other projects and jobs that I no longer had the time nor the motivation to write fiction, which is a big part of who I am.

I love being the editor and founder of Zest For Life, it’s hard work and I’m not receiving the amount of help from my friends that I thought I would, but I created something from nothing, which is what I love to do. I decided to stop volunteering at the hostel because some weeks I would turn up and none of the residents wanted to take part, I was enthusiastic to inspire them but they didn’t want to be inspired.

I did however, have one really good session with them whilst I was volunteering there. I managed to inspire them to write, a member of staff told me that it was the first time she had seen some of them smile like that in weeks, I had a warm feeling in my chest as I left the hostel. I knew I had made a difference to someone’s day. That’s when it hit me. The epiphany, the impulse to help people, the day that I started to doubt my career choice.

I want to teach. I don’t know why I didn’t realise this before but it hit me and now the feeling won’t go away. Of course, my anxiety reminds me daily of everything that could go wrong if I decide to do it and I am still on the fence about what I really want. I thought I wanted the 9-5 office job, sitting at a computer all day, writing. Now, I’m not so sure. I get bored easily and I want a job that is different every single day. I also have this need to help and inspire people. I have always loved children (even though I am definitely not ready for my own). So why not take the plunge and train to be a primary school teacher?

I’m at a crossroads, I am so confused about what I really want and exactly who I want to be. One thing I know for definite is that I love to write, what ever that may be. I think my lack of writing fiction is due to having too much going on in my mind right now, once I sort through it, I’m sure the ideas will come and I will start writing again.

I was so sure that I wanted to go into publishing and magazines and a small part of me still wants to, but I would have to relocate to London and I’m not willing to do that. I have definitely had a change of heart, I just need to decide what to do with it. Do I ignore it and carry on knowing I’m not full happy with my career choice? Do I leave the world of publishing and magazines behind after all of my hard work and go into teaching?

What ever decision I make, it will change my life. I just have to picture the future version of myself in my mind and decide exactly what I want that picture to be.

The Need To Succeed

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Energy and persistence conquer all things – Benjamin Franklin

I may have lost my way for a while but I now feel back to my old self. My ambitious, hard-working and motivated self that wants to succeed. I have so many projects and exciting opportunities happening right now that I haven’t even had the time to blink and really think about how far I have come in the past month.

Persistence is something that comes naturally to me. Sure, I can give into the temptation of being lazy for a day and say that I will do something tomorrow but in the back of my mind, it all keeps on turning. Like an old grandfather clock, my mind never stops. The hand always goes round and round and even when I don’t think I’m thinking about everything I have to and want to do, it’s still there, encouraging me to keep going. I have this ongoing need to succeed.

I want to update this blog as much as I used to but there are not enough hours in the day to achieve everything I want to and I have to learn to prioritize. In the last few weeks I have managed to land myself a paid part-time freelance writing job, volunteer at a hostel as a mentor in Creative Writing, sign up to be a volunteer at The Manchester Literature Festival and start my own online magazine Zest For Life. It’s in the very early stages but please follow the Zest For Life Blog here.

Adding to that I have a novel that is still stuck on 4,000 words because I haven’t had the time to focus on it. I am still writing short stories and poetry for collections that I will put together one day in the future. I still contribute articles for two online magazines and I also have this blog. If that wasn’t enough, I’m also signing up for a night class once a week, the class is being taught by a successful author who will be teaching the different ways to publish your writing.

I know I have a lot of things going on in my life right now but I like to be busy. The days were so long when I had nothing to do and no motivation to start anything new. Now, I feel my old self again. I am ready to take on anything life throws at me. I still think about the future but I am really in love with my life right now.

There’s a burning passion inside of me for words. I want to write. I want to be a successful writer. One day I want to be a successful author. I want an amazing career. I want to complete all of the projects that I have set for myself. I want to take every opportunity that comes my way. I want to succeed and I’ve decided to start enjoying every second of my life.

Colour Me Calm: The Adult Colouring Book Craze

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We all remember the joy that colouring books brought to us when we were small, our parents would give us a colouring book and some crayons and we would stay quiet for hours, focusing on staying in the lines, with our tongues sticking out and wrinkles on our forehead.

Unfortunately, as we turn into adults we close the doors on our childhood, we forget everything we used to enjoy and focus on making a living, worrying about money and what we think we should be doing with our lives. We tell ourselves that everything we did when we were children should be left in the past and we should just be adults, responsible adults who have lots of important decisions to make.

I’ve always loved colouring, as a child I would entertain myself for hours, scribbling and drawing and using felt tips to colour in blank silhouettes of cartoon characters and princesses. This is why I stopped. There were no colouring books suitable for adults, until now. It might be the latest craze that will fade into obscurity in a few months time but I think it’s an excellent idea to get adults in touch with their inner child. Instead of getting caught up in the anxieties of modern life, why not sit down, switch off your brain for a little while and colour? Brilliant.

Studies have shown that colouring is a great way to relax and turn off the world. We’re so animated all of the time, whether it is scrolling down our Facebook news feeds to see what our friends are up to, working in a busy office nine hours a day or travelling on trains and buses, we find it difficult to just stop and focus on one thing. Psychologists say that colouring stimulates areas of the brain that are related to motor skills, the senses and creativity and when we enter that creative state of mind, naturally our worries melt away, it’s the perfect relaxation technique.

Some adults will shake their heads in dismay at grown-ups sitting down with a box of crayons and a book of patterns to colour in on a Friday night but if it transports them to a place where they feel calmer, happier, even nostalgic then what’s the harm? I have always found colouring to be therapeutic and since buying my ‘adult’ colouring book, I have found a new hobby that enhances my creativity, makes me feel calmer and keeps me entertained when boredom hits. The first day I opened my new colouring book, I left my laptop screen and coloured for nearly three hours. I think that’s the longest I have been away from a screen for a while.

If you feel like you need an escape from your every day life and want to reconnect with your childhood innocence then pick up an adult colouring book from your local book shop, try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015

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So, I have decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo. After the success of winning NaNoWriMo in November last year, completing 50,000 words in thirty days for my first full length novel 1:58, I decided that it was time to do it again. Camp NaNoWriMo is the same as NaNoWriMo but there is more freedom, I can choose my own word count goal. However, I’m still sticking to 50,000 words. I can do it. I know I can.

I feel like I have lost a lot of motivation in the writing side of my life and the less I write, the more confidence I lose and I knew that it was time to transfer the novel that I have been planning for months in my head, down on paper. I have started to outline and plan a novel called The Last Letter. I have it planned up to chapter twelve and I am going to spend the last few days of June planning the rest to start the Camp NaNoWriMo on July the 1st.

I have planned many novels and many of them have never been written but this one, it just feels different. I can’t really explain why but this is the story that I really want to tell. Completing the challenge last year boosted my confidence enormously because I had never completed a longer piece of writing from start to finish. I had written poetry and short stories but never succeeded in writing an entire novel. Now I can say I have. And I am going to do it again.

I have so much time on my hands right now and I feel like I am wasting it. Day in and day out, I do nothing productive and it is only getting worse. I don’t want to be the writer that doesn’t write. I don’t want to be the woman who says she wants to be an author but never even tries to make the dream a reality. I want to write this novel.

The Last Letter is my chance to prove that I can write novels. It is easy for some writers to just write a 100,000 word novel from start to finish, start revising it, complete it and then send it to publishing houses. But what about the rest of us? The struggling writers that don’t always have the discipline to complete what we start? The writers that listen to the voice in their heads that says they are not good enough and believe it. The writers that know they can do it but have to convince themselves that they won’t fail.

I can manage 1,600 words a day. I have done it before. There are a few days in the month of July that I will be busy but I will have to work around my plans and make sure I get my daily word count. I know I can do this. I have done this before.

July has one extra day than November. I have thirty one days and 50,000 words to write and this time I am going to revise the novel and redraft it and get it ready to be published. No more messing around with ideas and wondering if I am good enough to be published. I need to start believing in myself. I can be an author, no, I will be an author and doing NaNoWriMo is just a stepping stone on my journey to achieving this dream.