‘Write about something you know and care about’…
…and ‘write like you speak’.
Two pieces of advice gleaned from Maeve Binchy’s biography last week. Ok, so it’s not exactly rocket science, but it helps to be reminded of these things, I think. It takes me back to last week’s note on emulating other people’s writing, or being inspired by it – that’s good, but make sure you write with your own voice.
I seem to have developed, at last, some sort of addiction to memoirs and biographies (of writers anyway!) and was very interested to read of Maeve’s life as a teacher, traveller, journalist and author. I admit I’d only really thought of her in the past as an author – I had no idea about the very many other things she had devoted so much time to.
As a young journalist she discovered her knack for writing – writing which appealed to a mass audience and subsequently saw her turn to fiction and of course, full-time novel writing. She did, however, keep up the journalism alongside this throughout her career and at all times, remained very clear about who she was. She retained a natural style in her writing and the story-telling flowed from that. She was comfortable in her own skin and, at a time when women were only really taking off in the world of work, was a true inspiration for many. I wonder how many women journalists out there today were inspired by her column in the Irish Times, or by her novels? I for one, can now admit to being a late convert to the Binchy work ethos. She herself was influenced by the existentialist theories of French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, and had an unwavering self-belief in herself as a result. This does not mean she had an air of superiority, but rather, that she developed a sense of who she truly was and set out to find what she was good at and stick with it (which she did).
She learnt to accept the hand she had been dealt in life and as a result, made the most of every opportunity that came her way, without worrying about what people thought of her, or about fitting into a particular mould.
I recommend a read…
From biography to poetry and this week, I decided to begin reading ‘Poem for the Day’ (One), which does exactly what it says and gives you a poem for every day of the year to read.. and memorise. Well, the reading I will do, but I have to draw the line at attempting to memorise a year’s-worth of poems! I haven’t recognised any of the poems that I’ve read so far this week, so I’m looking forward to getting to know some new voices – old and new – and hopefully, the more I read, the more it may rub off on my own attempts…
I won’t do this every week but, as it’s the start of the New Year, I thought the very first poem of the year was a nice way to kick it all off and subsequently, a good one to share.
New Every Morning – by Susan Coolidge (also author of the Katy books)
Every day is a fresh beginning,
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, spite of old sorrows
And older sinning,
And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.
I will finish for now, with the words of another poet who featured this week – T.S. Eliot – who very wisely advised that, “the essential advantage for a poet is not to have a beautiful world with which to deal; it is to be able to see beneath both beauty and ugliness; to see the boredom, and the horror, and the glory.”