Friday, 24 July 2009

Today is...

I am not afraid of tomorrow for I have seen yesterday and I love today
William Allen White.

..a very special anniversary for me. I began working on “Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket” the day after my relationship with Junior’s dad finally fell apart. 24th July 2006 - it was a Monday. With the benefit of hindsight I know it was for the best but at the time it felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me.
I had toyed with the basic concept of the novel for some time and I could see clearly in my mind all the characters and their individual personalities. I had just never managed to get around to seriously putting anything down on paper. I wanted to be a writer from the first moment I held a pencil. It was the only thing I was good at and the one thing I could see myself spending my life doing. I won several awards throughout my school years for story writing but despite being complimented regularly for my colourful imagination (or scolded for my daydreaming!) on the whole my flair for words seemed to go unnoticed. Over the years I reluctantly accepted that writing would have to be a hobby and one that I could only pursue in between a real job. So I floundered from one occupation to another- soulless jobs that paid the rent but did little for my sanity or my well-being. After I got my degree in 2003 I decided to take some time out of my career to dedicate myself fully to being a mum (my favourite and most challenging job so far!) How could I ever have prepared myself for being thrown into the unexpected and chaotic world of single parenthood?

Writing a children’s novel had always been a dream for me but one which had gone on hold so many times for so many different reasons - lack of time, want for motivation, fear of failure. My personal crisis seemed to crack open something that had been buried deep inside and suddenly the idea of writing just felt like the right thing to do. It offered me a way of escaping an extremely difficult period in my life, a chance to release negative and destructive emotions, whilst offering me some much needed hope for a new beginning. It was as though with every word I wrote I could feel the darkness lifting. Bree’s world provided me with a trapdoor out of my own painful existence, a place where I was able to escape my problems and take back a modicum of control. For a while I became the master of other people’s destinies and gradually the fact that I was no longer the master of my own did not feel quite so bad. Certain features of the story reflect my own circumstances and emotions at the point that I wrote them and in many ways I wore my heart on my sleeve throughout the writing of my novel. I found the experience of incorporating my own feelings into those of the characters very therapeutic. Without wishing to sound over dramatic, writing “Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket” saved me. Looking back, it was such a positive thing to do under such desperate circumstances, almost as though I was not prepared to go down without a fight. Putting pen to paper was a last ditch attempt to stop me from unravelling completely. Writing seemed to organise the chaos in my life and helped to make me feel whole again. Suddenly I was grabbing every spare second I had - and spare time was a rare luxury as any single mum with a hyperactive two year old will tell you! I can remember rushing downstairs when Junior went for his afternoon nap hoping to scribble down a few paragraphs while the house was semi-quiet. I took to carrying a notebook in the back of the buggy along with the spare nappy, wet wipes and the soggy, half eaten biscuit - for those flashes of inspiration that inevitably occurred in the oddest and most inconvenient places - the supermarket checkout, the bus stop, the doctor’s waiting room. My book started to feel like my second child.
It took me until I reached the age of 34 to even consider trying to write the novel that I knew was inside me from an early age. It took something terrible to happen to shove me in the right direction. This has been a difficult but most important journey, pursuing the one thing that has always mattered to me most.
I try not to do this very often but when I look back to July 2006 I realise that if somebody had told me then that I would be living my dream in three years time I would probably have laughed and rolled my eyes to the ceiling in that way we do when what we’re hearing is truly unbelievable. If I had been told that on July 24th 2009 I would be only 3 weeks away from the launch party for my first novel I would have thought I was hearing things. It was hard to imagine at that time climbing out of the black hole I had fallen (or been pushed?) into. But what do you know? Extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people…
I’ve waited all my life for this and I am determined to enjoy every single second of it. Now when Junior says, “I wonder what will happen to me when I‘m a big boy” my response is “Who can tell? Just never give up on your dreams and above all, prepare to be surprised!”

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