What I talk about when I talk about writing

I’ve just finished reading the insightful book by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, about his entwined passions of writing and running. I would not embellish my own efforts in either of these realms to compare myself to him, but as a writer and a runner, this book was like reading about my inner thoughts.  The pain, the relentless slog, the dark lonely steps – and that’s j411Jyo32ByL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_ust the writing. His description of those last 5 miles of a marathon made me feel human – even those who accomplish one a year felt as bad as I did at the end of my one!   He describes the three things he believes are essential for a writer – and a runner.

Talent. As he puts it “If you don’t have any fuel, even the best car won’t run.”

Secondly, he sites Focus. “The ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it.”

And finally – and as I have learnt from both writing a book, and running a marathon, probably the difference between success and failure is Endurance. “What’s needed for a writer.. at least one who hopes to write a novel – is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, two years.

Like running and training though he suggests that unlike talent, with constant practise you can fine tune your skills in focus and endurance.   It just takes hard work and commitment. (I would add, pain, chocolate, cold baths, and gin.)

He calls writing ‘manual labour’ – “Writing itself is mental labour, but finishing an entire book is is closer to manual labour”.

I wrote an earlier article for the writing resource http://www.writing.ie about my comparison with writing a book and running a marathon, and so reading this book spoke to me. He writes, “most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate – and how much is too much? How far can I take something?

For anyone who likes any form of exercise and is also wanting to write, this book is a little gem of wisdom.  Because of a recent car crash I’m not up for running at the moment, my body needs to rest. And because of a recent personal loss, I’m not up for writing at the moment, my brain and my heart need to rest.   But I know that soon I will need to start pounding the ground, and pounding the keys – like Murakami, they are essential for my life.  I’ll end with my favourite lines from his book, which will keep me going until I am physically and mentally ready to get going again.

“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life – and for me, for writing as well.”

Publication day!

Today is publication day of my first book, Daughter, Mother, Me: A memoir of love, loss and dirty dishes.  It is a day I always dreamed of, and worked towards.  But like a life lived well, a book written well is not done alone.

Due to family circumstances, I have had to postpone the official launch of the book. I was going to use that opportunity to thank a lot of people who have helped me to this amazing day.  So instead, I will raise my hand in salute here, until I can raise a glass in salute at a later date.

My name is on the front of the book, but there are many names that helped to write it.

I’d like to start with the author Patricia O’Reilly, my first creative writing teacher all those years ago, who called me back from class one day and said words that changed my life. “You must write,” she said.  Patricia, you will never know how much those words spurred me on.

I’d like to thank Vanessa O’Loughlin (as would half the published authors of Ireland!). I think I attended some of the first Inkwell sessions and over the many years of writing and wittering since, you (and http://www.writing.ie) have championed and cheered me on.

I’d like to thank the author Natasha Fennell who many years ago, during a life coaching session, said to me, “Why are you not writing? Everything points to that.”  And when I was offered a book deal, she offered me generous advice and support. Thank you.

There are many others in my Writing Emergency Support Squad – Hazel Gaynor, Sue Leonard, Sue Thompson to name but a few – thank you for the advice and the encouragement.

To my Writing Fairy Godmother – Ciara Doorley who sent me an email asking if I’d like to write a book.  Yes, please!  Thank you for seeing my potential, and keeping me focussed and fired up.

To my lovely supportive agent, Sallyanne Sweeney – for always being at the end of a phone, even when I’m ranting nonsence and for sharing my love of my dog and cat pictures.


For all the team at Hachette – Breda, Joanna, Ruth and John – you have made this experience amazing.

To my glorious girl-friends – you all know who you are – I might be alive, but I wouldn’t be kicking without you.

To my dad, my brother Simon and sister-in-law Charlotte – for putting up with me!

And to the breads of my sandwich with whom, and for whom, this book couldn’t and wouldn’t be written.  My breath-taking girls, and my love-giving mum…. thank you.

My book is written, printed and now published. I might just pour myself a large gin.


From Typing to Talking

Writing is a fairly solitary endeavour, and so it has been rather comforting to have some company for a change at this stage of the book’s foray into daylight.

This morning I had the pleasure (no, wasn’t feeling sick at all) of talking to the lovely Dave Fanning on the Ryan Tubridy show… listen here

And over the weekend, it was great to get coverage in the Saturday Mail’s You magazine, and the Mail on Sunday.  Lots more planned for the coming days and weeks so I can keep wittering and stop writing for a little longer….