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Rebecca O’Connor: We’ll Sing Blackbird

Writing.ie | Magazine | Tell Your Own Story | Writing & Me
blackbird cover FINAL

Rebecca O'Connor

You’re going about your everyday business – getting the little one to crèche, paying bills, buying groceries, answering emails, while sleep deprived and covered in baby drool – and then one day you wake up different, lighter. Touched. Tipped over, somehow. I see the baby get it sometimes, like a switch in his head, some synapse, being formed for the first time. It seems to happen mostly at night. He gets restless, giddy, giggling hysterically at the slightest thing, jabbering. And the next day he’s able to clap hands or make a clicking noise with his tongue.

Whatever it is happens, you feel different. A hangover will do it sometimes. Or a vivid dream. A bit of monkey magic, the subconscious rubbing up against the light. You can see things you couldn’t see before, feel things more intensely. It allows you to pull back, it gives you perspective, so that what was unexceptional before is now pressing you to take note. Like being in a foreign country and remarking the subtle difference in the taste of butter, or the smell of petrol stations, or the feel of someone else’s skin. You have awoken into some kind of dream, and it is in this dream state that you take stock of things.

The rest of the time, you’re going about your business – getting the little one to crèche, paying bills, buying groceries, answering emails, etc. – and all of this is settling in, fomenting. You keep one eye on it, one ear to the ground, but much of it is happening somewhere darker than you can see.

If things were different, if I was less scared of failure or more committed or less tired or whatever it is, I might sit down every day and tend to my writing, encourage it along, but I don’t, not at the moment anyway, which is why I have to rely on these exceptional days, when the surface is breached. I’ve dreamt about becoming a full-time writer since I was an adolescent, but I didn’t apply myself to the task. I didn’t know how. And I was too square to just take the risk. So I went into publishing, encouraging other writers instead. But I’m flighty too, and perhaps if I didn’t have to scrabble around, grasping moments, writing late into the night, sneaking away from work to jot down notes, then I might lose interest. I like the thrill of the newness of it.

These days I’m honestly not sure if I would want to write full-time. It feels awkward admitting that. But I feel passionate about other things too – like being a mother, an editor, a businesswoman … Maybe I was just born to multi-task? But does that mean that one never reaches one’s full potential as a writer? I don’t know about that … I would go stir crazy if I was a full-time stay-at-home mum. I think I am a better parent precisely because I’m not at home all day. Maybe the same applies to my writing … Becoming a mother strengthened my resolve, gave me focus. My husband Will would say the same. Suddenly we knew what it was we needed to do. It’s a financial imperative, now that we have two sons, but it’s more than that. It’s a creative imperative too. We want to bring them up in a stimulating environment, we want them to feel they can do anything, and we want them to feel proud. They are part of the creative process now. The final touches of the spring issue of The Moth were done while in bed with my newborn. The first draft of my novel was completed in the first month of my first son’s life. True, I have yet to finish a final draft of that book four years on, but I’m still thinking about it.

I abhor the idea of writing being a kind of balm, but I have to admit that I would be unhappy without it. That’s not to say I’m getting things off my chest, but that the process itself is a lifeline. And the idea that I can communicate through my writing is amazing. I hate small talk, and a poem gets right to the quick of things.


© Rebecca O’Connor

About the author

© Rebecca O’Connor

Rebecca O’Connor edits The Moth magazine (www.themothmagazine.com) and organises the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize. She worked as a commissioning editor of literary fiction at Telegram Books in London before returning to Ireland with her family in 2008. She won a Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2004 and her chapbook Poems was published by the Wordsworth Trust, where she was a writer in residence in 2005. Her poetry has been published in, among other places, The Guardian, Poetry Review and The Spectator. See www.rebeccaoconnor.net or find out more here:


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