Wednesday, 2 November 2011

What to write


Anybody who has sat down to a blank page has been confronted by the question: what to write?

From adolescence, writing essays in school, I learned that pandering to the teacher’s expectations was the more likely course to a better grade but I had difficulty with that.

Thankfully I was encouraged by those teachers that challenged me to do more – to try to voice my own point of view and to write something ‘outside of the box.’ These good and caring teachers responded to my interest by steering me towards the type of book you might not find in the narrower curriculums.

I soon learned that I preferred the type of writing that jolted, or coaxed, me out of the small existence I occupied and while it is comforting to read like-mindedness, it is often no more than fast-food for the emotions. I developed an appetite for the rich and varied diet of writings that made me reconsider myself and the world around me.

As a child I liked to be led by the hand to a happily-ever-after that proved that good triumphed over bad and that Fate was fair – it was reassuring when the life I was born into was turned on its head.

But after years of wondering why Good avoided me I began to realise that life was not like that. (Blame all of those ‘banned’ novels I consumed as a teenager! Demian, by Hesse, had a profound impact, as did Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World.)

From then on I was drawn to books that said: ‘here’s another point of view – try looking at the world this way.’

But that was back in the day when we asked questions and did not accept pre-packaged answers. That was back when people spoke openly of trying to make things better – not unlike today!

Writing Lagan Love gave me an opportunity to show a glimpse of a time and place that could be interpreted as a metaphor for far more than Dublin and the Irish. Too many of us were seduced by delusions and an image of life that we now know to be fantasy.

I, like so many others, do not have answers but I do have questions that I would like to discuss in a civilised and respectful manner. We all need to consider this and turn away from divisive and dismissive rhetoric and writing is as good a way of doing that as any.

The reactions to Lagan Love has been varied. Some embrace it and some reject it and I am okay with all of that. I would worry if everyone agreed! Good writing, is has been said, should not present the author but should offer the reader a chance to meet parts of themselves in the characters.

Some people have said that I have achieved that by their reactions – be they positive or negative – and I am encouraged by that.

This post was published on Jagged Edge Reviews