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Listowel Inspiration & Finding My Voice

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Evelyn Walsh

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I’ve written very little for the last few months – I have been collaborating on a project with a songwriter friend, the very talented Karen Coleman. Remember where you heard her name first folks – it will be extremely well known soon. Between that, the play, working and vaguely trying to run a home is it any wonder I’m shattered.
I lay awake the other night wondering why in the name of the Universe did I do it to myself? I’m exhausted to the point of bringing on insomnia. I mean I could easily stop writing – it’s not as if the world was holding its breath waiting to see what I’ll write next. I could go back to work full-time thus throwing an extra couple of hundred into the family purse every month. I could chill in the evenings in my garden from spring to autumn. In winter I could curl up (guilt free) with a book by the fire. I might even (heaven forbid) start talking to my husband Jemser again; out on long boozy nights in some hostelry where we sort out all the conundrums of the universe – at least I do, all he has to do is pretend to listen, secretly wondering what happened to him at that last hole in Corballis.
Last year at Listowel Writers’ Week I took part in a workshop facilitated by the lovely Marina Carr, playwright extraordinaire. At one stage Marina said
‘Why do we do it? I mean nobody really gives a s**t.’ I came out with the stock answer ‘Because we have to.’ Marina came back with
 ‘No. We think we have to.’ Marina is an intellectual – someone who thinks deeply on all matters and then puts her thoughts into the speech and movements of her characters thus producing some of the finest plays this country has seen.
I know I don’t have to write– on one level – yet something drives me. I don’t know. My mother would have called it God given – any talent is innate I suppose, but unless you practise, use that talent; it will fade. If I lost the ability to tell stories in the way I choose through any fault of my own  e.g. not writing or by procrastinating for too long then I think it would be the nearest thing to a sin against God, Nature, The Universe – what ever.
When I was nominated for the Hennessy Award for first fiction some years ago a friend of Jemser’s (and my friend too I hope!) – Galway poet Gerard Hanberry – sent me a text telling me of a writer son who came proudly to his writing father with his first small success – Dad congratulated son then said ‘Welcome to Hell’. I laughed when I read it  but believe me five years later I know exactly what he meant! Ger is a poet and author of ‘More Lives than One’ a beautiful book about the family of the great Oscar Wilde, a book that is truly a labour of love. He also told me that having won the Hennessy I could never turn my back on writing. He is right, and I never will.
When I found ‘my voice’ something miraculous happened for me. Finally I fitted into the world around me. Up to that I always ached for something – not knowing what it was I ached for. I tried to fill the void with myriad things – alcohol, cigarettes, friends, family. But there was always something missing. I always wanted just one more ‘thing’ Someone very wise once asked me, in an unusual temper,just what it was that would make me happy?
I opened my mouth to retort at the time – then promptly shut it again. I had a bing moment. I was responsible for my own happiness. Nothing anyone did for me would work. I had to find it myself– that key, the key to my happiness. And find it I did and thank Heaven for it. Writing may well be thankless but it fulfils me. The world doesn’t care about it, but I do. I love it and it loves me (except when it needs a rest from me!). Best of all I’m not annoying anyone by rabbitting on all the time at a pace that no-one can keep up with, jumping from one subject to another. There are sections of Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ that remind me of my restless brain (I’m not claiming talent here!). On and on and on and on – to what end?
If technology ever advances to the point where they can scan your brain in to see what’s going on in all the thinking areas I’d love to see a printout of mine! I’d say it would be like one of  those abstract paintings – mad mad mad swirling colours. I write because it puts order on me. The black marks on the white of the page make me focus on the task at hand not meander down the many many byroads that pop up on my path to distract me from the job at hand.
Marina Carr may well be right about writers– I bow to her incredible intellect – but I, for one, KNOW that I write because I have to. It is the only medium through which I can express myself fully.
Now  – off to write…

Listowel Writers Week is a ‘must’ on every writer’s calendar. A fantastic week with like minded people in the welcoming atmosphere of Listowel – the drink flows too! I can’t go this year and I think I’ll probably go into a decline! Dublin Writers Weeek is on and I’ll probably attend some of those events. Listowel however beats them all for atmosphere.

About the author

(c) Evelyn Walsh May 2012

Evelyn Walsh blogs at All This and Heaven Too and her book Heron’s Flood is out now and available at Amazon. It has been described as a ‘poignant exploration of the intricacies of human relationships’, The Heron’s Flood is a study of life, loss and, above all, love in all its guises.

For more on Listowel Writers week and the fabulous events and seminars that they are running, visit their website www.writersweek.ie

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