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On Finding the Time to Write by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

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Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. As a child, I wrote stories, poems, scribbled down ideas every day. Notebooks were my favourite things. But as I got older, I lost my courage, I think. I went to college and got a job and got married and had kids and weathered the normal joys and sorrows of life. All the time, the secret longing stayed with me. 

One day I told my husband my secret. I really wanted to write a novel. ‘How can I help you?’ He asked. It was going to be hard to find the time. I had a busy, demanding job (which I loved, and still love) three little children (ditto), a mortgage to pay, an ailing dad, and just lots of things going on in my life. My husband suggested I write a little bit every day, and that’s how I began.

At first it was just ten or fifteen minutes in the evenings. Everything I wrote felt like self-conscious rubbish, and the going was slow. But there was something about the regular practice that gradually gave me some belief in the story and I decided to increase my commitment. For about six months, I got up an hour early each morning. It was really exhausting, but after a while my body got used to it, and a stronger sense of progress emerged. This was only the first draft. I knew there was a lot more to be done. My husband suggested I take a week off work and away from the kids, and just go somewhere on my own to write. I knew how lucky I was to be able to do this, and to be supported in doing it. Still, I felt profoundly guilty and self-indulgent about the idea and I delayed doing it for months. But I finally did. It was precious time. I used it to make more progress. 

After another two years of regular writing (sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late at night, sometimes at the weekends, often in the car during sports practice) I thought my novel was ready. I sent it off to a publisher, and waited for the response.  Three months went by. Then one day, en route between work meetings, I was standing in Pearse St train Station when my husband rang. ‘There’s a letter here for you,’ he said. It had the publisher’s logo on the front. ‘Do you want me to open it?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘I mean, yes. I mean no. YES YES for the love of god, open it!’ 

There was a silence on the other end. I could hear my husband readying himself to tell me the disappointing news. It was a rejection. I will never be able to find the words for how crushing it felt. Those of you who are writers will not need me to explain. I began to cry. In public. Right there, surrounded by strangers on the platform. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I said to my husband. ‘I’ve wasted all this time when I should have been with you and the children. And now it’s come to nothing, and I’ve let you all down.’ I went on, in a thickening miasma of self-loathing: ‘And I’m no good, and my story sucks and I’ll never get published and I’m going to give it up because it’s all been a huge waste.’ 

‘Shut up,’ said my husband when he was able to get a word in. ‘Listen to me. I don’t care if you never get published. I’ve never cared. I’m already proud of you. I don’t care whether you keep writing or if you stop. None of that matters to me. I just don’t want you to be sad. I want you to be happy. And I want you to do the things that make you happy.’

I know what a stroke of luck it is that have the kind of partner who helps me recover my sense of creative purpose after weeping scenes in train stations. After many more rejections, I sent my first three chapters to Jo Unwin who’d just become an agent. Anyone who knows her will know how fortunate that makes me.  I’ve had other champions too. My writing group is full of people who get it, and are in my corner; amazingly encouraging family and friends; two trusted first readers, my brother, Ben (@Beanmimo) and my best friend, Mel.

My novels haven’t made us rich. They haven’t made me famous. I still roam the world in delightful obscurity. I’m not a Booker prize winner or anything, but my books are all still in print, and they have reached many readers, and they sit on shelves in bookshops and libraries waiting for their next reader to find them – all of which is to say that my dream has come true.

After ten years of being a published writer I do know this: If you don’t feel entitled to write, then no amount of support can help you. If you do give yourself permission, and insist on making room for your creative work, then few obstacles can stop you. I also know that we writers are often our own worst, most punishing critics. So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not meeting the high standards you’re aiming for as quickly as you would like. Be kind to yourself. You have a right to protect time for the creative things you’ve always longed to do – the things that make you happy. 

(c) Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

About All The Money In The World:

One day you’re broke. The next, you have all the money in the world. What would you do? A gripping, timely story about cold, hard cash and little white lies for fans of Jenny Valentine, Siobhan Dowd and Lara Williamson.

Fifteen-year-old Penny longs for something better. Better than a small, damp flat. Better than her bullying classmates and uninterested teachers. Better than misery and poverty day in day out.

An unlikely friendship and a huge sum of money promise a whole lot of new chances for Penny, and she realises that not only can she change her life, she can change herself.

But at what cost?

Perfect for readers of 10+.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald is an award-winning teacher, researcher and novelist at the University of Limerick where she teaches creative writing (including story mapping) with colleagues, Joseph O’Connor and Donal Ryan. She was awarded a full professorship at UL in 2016 for her research and leadership in teaching and learning, and was Ireland’s inaugural chair of the board of the National Forum for the enhancement of teaching and learning. She’s founder of UL’s Creative Writing Winter School for mid-career writers and the author of six novels including The Apple Tart of Hope, A Strange Kind of Brave and All The Money In The World. Her work has been adapted for the stage and translated into over eighteen different languages.

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