My Writing Style
Whilst I’m currently doing a Masters that is not at all related to anything vaguely creative , I did once, in the distant ventures of my mind, complete a BA in Creative Writing. I find it hard to refrain from instantly justifying why I did this, knowing as I do that so many replace ‘creative writing ‘ with ‘unemployment’ in their minds. Yet it was glorious and an experience that I coveted ever before I got it, spending the entirety of my Leaving Cert year doubting I was worth a spot in the course that had so few places and such high points.
My mom always remarks that she knew how much writing meant to me when she saw me decide on the course I wanted to do. She claims that it was like someone flipped a switch in me and overnight, getting the points high enough to do what I loved was all that mattered. I believe her version of events entirely. From the outside, I probably did look like a more studious, more intense version of the already perfectionistic, high-achieving student I was. But inside, I was reeling from a decision that likely does not sound critical to anyone who does not adore and live for a passion as I do for writing. No more writing for that year. I would give up my free time, weekends and holidays to study every hour I could, no matter how early or late. This is a decision that slots in perfectly with my personality. I’ve always been more concerned with the end goal, than the temporary satisfaction of any situation. I play the long game and stick to my decisions and commitments in every area of my life. It made sense after all. Give this my all for one year and have the pay-off of four years of writing – better still, writing legitimately and with guidance.
The perfect long game for an academic perfectionist.
A few unhappy events later and a serious bought of illness that would span years and I got into my Creative Writing course by the skin of my teeth.
And I’d been right, it was worth all of the sacrifice. The next four years were a gift. My work was being read and critiqued and I was creatively fulfilled. But more than that, I made friends with people who truly thought as I did for the first time in my life. It was a niche I so perfectly slotted into. A homecoming I hadn’t known I needed. And it was over before I could blink, before I could uncover the best parts of who I am. Suddenly, we were throwing our caps in the air and hugging each other goodbye, wondering if any of us would stay in-touch.
Graduation was a year and a half ago. It’s now April 2019 and all of our journeys have dispersed into wildly different areas. Some of us don’t write anymore. Even more of us don’t know what to write about. All of us are preoccupied with making a living – a dangerously tricky subject of a writing career as sadly, the truth is that few writers make a living wage from book sales alone.
When we were in college and basking in the youth and togetherness of it all, that was a problem for later day. Our future selves could deal with that minor detail. We were too busy feeling limitless. That day, it turns out, is now.
Whenever I meet these wondrous friends, I am reminded precisely why I love them. There is a part of me, a very crucial, necessary part, that is never expressed with anyone else. This part of me creeps to the surface with this group and I come up for air.
Recently, we met for drinks and when one of my friends asked what I was doing recently, another commented (kindly) before I could answer; ‘You know Jen, she always has her shit together.’ The comment has stayed with me as I consider my current writing. And whether I actually do have my shit together.
It’s true, I am organised about every area of my life. I leave very little to chance and can never be described as being apathetic about any task at hand, no matter how evidently meaningless. I’m a planner and a thinker but more, I’m a doer. Most of the time, this is a powerfully positive trait. It encourages me to strive for better, to demand excellence of myself and instills in me a quiet confidence and knowledge that, at the very least, I’ll always have done my best. Yet, it is also exhausting and never accounts for the potential of failure. This drive and ambition never guides me on how to feel, in those moments when my plans go array and I am simply too tired to succeed.
In the meantime between graduation and now, I’ve written two more novels and a novella, countless poems (in my clear disposition towards the horror genre), several shorts tories and academic papers for publication. My very skin seems to writhe with imposter syndrome at those words. I instantly feel as though I am gloating, when the the truth is that in a eighteen months when I work full-time and study a masters, this is not bad going by a normal, well-adjusted person’s standards.
But for me, it is not always enough. Each manuscript I’ve written is unedited and riddled with mistakes. My poems have never been read by anyone but myself, my short stories are too infrequently produced and my academic papers are paper-thin in quality. Or at least that’s what my worst critic offers.
Worse than these criticisms, a question niggles the back of my mind, begging me to ask myself when my life’s goal, my passion for living, become so inconsistent?
I know the answer. I know that it is not that I’ve been distracted by life, but rather than I’ve been busy trying to exist within life. Busy trying to curb my edges to fit into the square hole defined by a society that demands we pay taxes, have progressive careers and succeed socially. I’ve put my creativity on a schedule to do so. In many ways, I’ve been forced to.
Yet, is this a bad thing, the kinder part of my mind asks? To thrive in more ways than one?
Those manuscripts will get edited, my poems will get submitted to magazines and I will write my blogs and papers. Perhaps they would be produced by now if I’d stopped usingmy energy wondering if it’s a problem that they were completed at 23 but only edited and polished at 25. Does it matter, really, once they are done?
I thought I was alone in this mental battle until I reconnected with my friends from my BA, with the beautiful people who are also not built to live lives in square holes. No, this experience is common to all and exclusive to none.
What helps is knowing one true fact. I will relish the day in which we will all stand proudly within our own definitions of success, where we will cheer for each other ecstatically. Because a rising ride truly does carry all boats and we will know that it is not just the blood and toil that has gone into each success, but the years of doubt, isolation and questioning. The years when our imaginations were great enough to convince us that we were alone in what is entirely, a group experience.
On that day, a day when a fluid definition of success flows through our veins, I know that we will cheer louder for each other than anyone else because truly, we’ll have earned it, deserving a time where our creativity knows no bounds.
This is a random post, but something I wrote as a result of hindsight, thinking about my writing journey and style!