Wednesday, October 3, 2012


From my perspective, one of the great mysteries of writing is that I don’t really know how the process works. You would think I would know after writing most of my adult life, and starting my professional writing career – after various false starts – in 1986 – but I don’t. In fact, I don’t really know where many of my ideas come from. I can trace back certain influences, of course, and the origins of some specific scenes, but much of the rest is a mystery; and I guess that is part of the magic.

You do understand, I trust, that writing really is magic. As to what kind of magic, I guess that depends on what you write.

What I do know is that although I think a great deal about my characters, and what I am going to write, matters really only take off when I physically start to write. In fact, I have now reached the stage where the mere sight of a keyboard makes me want to write. In short, writing begets writing. Putting it another way, even if you don’t know what to write about, start writing anyway, and the thinking will follow.

Yes, I know that sounds bizarre, but it’s true.

I know there are numerous creative writing courses out there, some taught by some truly talented authors, but I remain convinced that the best way to learn to write is to write a great deal; and every day. By so doing you will bridge the gap between your brain and your fingers. In fact, sometimes I think the fingers teach the brain, not the other way round. That is not literally true, of course, but I have no doubt at all that the sheer physicality of writing interacts with one’s mind in ways we don’t fully understand.

I used not to believe in magic. My mother made it clear at a very early age that Santa Claus didn’t exist. I suspect this was part of a campaign to lower my expectations. She was on an allowance from my grandmother and funds were short. If there was no Santa, I could scarcely expect much of a Christmas present. When I told my fellow munchkins at the Sacred Heart Convent in Dublin’s Leeson Street, they all screamed; and their parents wanted to lynch my mother (and possibly me) . 

Now, at least where writing is concerned, I rather think I do believe in magic.





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