The claim to be a writer, suggests publication. It suggests that a living is being made, or at the very least, a novel has been printed and encased in sturdy hardboard and dressed in a jacket. A book. A book on someone’s shelf, read and appreciated. Money has changed hands. Reviews have been written; recommendations made and stars awarded or, as in the case of Stories All-New Tales Edited By Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, a, ‘…dreamlike two thumbs up’ given. I am not a writer.
As an intense juvenile of the seventies, I had two poems printed in the Cork Examiner, for which I received two Postal Orders. My father was furious that I had used the pseudnym of Joanna Fitzgerald. Up until five years ago I have ripped up, burned and shredded everything I have written. There is no long lost manuscript, but I write. Every day there is something jotted down, edited, re-edited, ideas boxed and arrowed for further research, post-it notes stuck to kitchen tiles, ideas teased out, scribbled, rejected, thoughts remembered and connections made. I write. I move the pen across blank pages leaving a trail of black ink which begins to make sense of all of the above. I write; and then I type and print. Another trail of black ink puts Courier in its place. Words are slashed, cut, moved, added to until it feels ready to re-type and print. And so it goes. I write.
What do I have to show for five years of no-destruction? I have notebooks, pages, scraps of paper, lists, and four short stories. They are finished, apart from that final, final tweeak. I write. I read and I write some more. And I keep what I write now, difficult as that can be.
So this is the blog where Mary Jay lays bare her writing process, like a well worked, messy, kneaded Paul Hollywood dough. Somewhere down the line something of beauty and substance is formed, and then I feel like a writer.
(The Cork Examiner presses were smashed by the Republicans, 9th August, 1922. There is something about this photograph that encapsulates the indomitable spirit of the written word – threatening, chaotic and yet essential for the life blood of every country.)