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Writing . . . and loving it! by Orla Doherty

Writing.ie | Magazine | Tell Your Own Story | Writing & Me
Orla Doherty

Orla Doherty

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I joined Writing.ie late in 2020, as part of my ‘what else can I join during Covid?’ experiments.  Having been a professional squash coach for over 25 years, my job, like many others, had been stripped away for the indefinite future.  Gyms and squash clubs were closed, and subsequently wouldn’t open for up to 9 months in total.

I was offered a job on-line that I could do at anytime, anyplace, anyhow.  In short, I was translating an Economics Book into 12 different languages, that would be distributed for free into Eastern Europe. It involved a lot of google translate, and a lot of cut and paste options!

During my free time, I decided to write about my life up until now.  I’d been part of the Shine Festival which was organized by Shona.ie, an Irish organization set up to empower teenage girls.  During my interview, I mentioned that I was writing a memoir. The fact that I said it out loud, spurred me on to do something about it.

I immediately signed up for a memoir writing course that was advertised on writing.ie. It was led by Eileen Casey who was absolutely fantastic, and really took me under her wing.  She helped me edit a piece that I submitted to Sunday Miscellany, saying ‘I’ll eat my hat if they don’t snap it up’.  Unfortunately for Eileen, it’s coming up on 6 months since I submitted it…so that hat may have to be eaten! (:

Eileen taught me about re-writing and writing again, and more re-writing.  I hated it.  But I became obsessed with it.  I wanted more.  I had 8 chapters of my autobiography written and I was now discovering new ways to write prose.  Short stories, flash fiction, even poetry!  I couldn’t stop.

In late March, I saw an ad on Facebook about a Five-Day Writers Challenge that would be hosted by the incredible duo of Vanessa O’Loughlin and Maria McHale.  I knew nothing about either of them, nothing about the group, but I definitely had the time to do it.  I signed up.  And counted the days until it started.

Excitement and nerves ensued on the first day.  What do I expect here? How many people are going to do it? Am I WAY out of my league? Am I good enough to be in this group? I’m not even a writer. Maybe I shouldn’t have signed up.  I can always cancel.

I don’t remember how many people were there, but I do remember how unbelievably kind and welcoming Maria was in her first video.  She was like your best friend around the corner.  And then Vanessa with her quick-speak and funny comments.  The two together made for the perfect combination.  It was like sitting down to a cup of coffee with a cinnamon bun.  A special treat.

I dove in.  Day one.  #Beginnings.  We were given a picture prompt – my FIRST EVER.  I chose a small white Chihuahua-looking dog, sitting on a chair with a sparkling pink collar around its neck.  Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a lovely little story, that I developed throughout the week.  We were encouraged to write 250 words, based on what we saw in whatever picture we chose.

I can’t submit this.  It’s so bad.  It’s stupid.  I have given the dog a voice.  I shouldn’t be in this group.

Frantically, I read through some of the other peoples’ submissions.  Some were wonderfully descriptive, something I hadn’t done with mine.  But there was no sense of ‘you’re not good enough to do this’ at all.  Reading through the comments and feedback from the members was so beneficial. What struck me most on the first day was how very supportive and nice everyone was.  Vanessa offered detailed, thoughtful critique to every single one of us.  It was an injection of confidence, a shot of courage straight into the arm.  I loved it.

As each day went by, Maria’s gentle and kind charisma showed us about #developing, #dialogue, #settings, and the beauty of putting them all together.  Many of us in the group, took our first prompt on Monday and used it to create some really fantastic stories. By Friday, we were all each other’s biggest cheer-leaders.  I discovered there were people in the group just like me – first-timers.  There were also very experienced writers in the group, and they were so humble and generous with their positive feedback.

My addictive personality wouldn’t let me get through Wednesday without signing up for the Writing.ie Writers Ink private group on Facebook.  I’m sure Vanessa was laughing after reading my email saying ‘I haven’t been accepted yet’ on Thursday morning.  In a video on Thursday evening, Maria told us all about the benefits of the group and what we could expect to get out of it, and anyone that signed up this week, would be allowed into the group on Tuesday.

I have to wait until Tuesday?

Patience was never my best quality.

I’ve been a member of Writers Ink since May 4th and experienced my first Live with Vanessa and Maria that evening.  What a way to get started!  Funny, light, informative, and it absolutely flew by. Some of the characters in the group are wonderful.  It’s a whole new little community that I can now call my own. I have only missed one Live since joining the group.  I have found the courage to do the Wednesday prompt almost every week.  I can’t emphasise enough how encouraging the people in this group are.  So many will take the time to comment on my pieces, giving constructive and valuable feedback each time.  I’m learning so much from reading everyone else’s submissions, including the feedback Vanessa gives to everyone.

It’s by far the best thing I’ve done in the past two years.  Forget Imposter Syndrome.  Thanks to these two beauties, the world is our oyster!  We are all thriving, myself included.  Thank you Writing.ie!

(c) Orla Doherty

Visit Orla’s blog at:  www.orladoherty.com

About the author

I’m FIFTY and loving it. Growing up in Dublin, I always had a passion for writing. I now live in Prague, where I’m able to fulfil that dream and am half way through my autobiography.
In 1992, after a short stint on the Professional Squash Tour in England, I returned to Dublin, where I was a bartender for Break for The Border. That same year, I came out as homosexual. That didn’t go over too well, considering it was illegal at the time in Ireland.
Winning a green card in the lottery, I headed for San Francisco with only £300 in my pocket. My first job was in a cookie factory, then worked for Pinkerton as a security guard; had a surprise move to Las Vegas and tried my hand at private investigating, before discovering my love of squash again.
22 years later, after a career in squash coaching, work with disadvantaged youth, coaching at illustrious private clubs and universities, two marriages, five psychiatric ward vacations, one published children’s book, and five national squash titles, I moved back to Ireland.
After a short career in stand-up comedy, performing at Electric Picnic and starting my own comedy club, I continued coaching, and got certified as a personal trainer and spin instructor.
At age 48 I became the oldest female squash player to be selected on the Irish National Squash team. The same year, I won the European Masters Championships in Vienna.
My least favourite job was as grounds-crew for Jet Blue. I once drove the jet-bridge into a parked plane with passengers inside. The captain was NOT happy.
I am now importing and distributing healthy snacks and ladies sports clothing into the Czech Republic. And I’m writing.
Likes: Abba, disco balls, Squash, all sports, playing piano, writing, travelling, good coffee, Mexican food, laughing out loud, and animals (especially dogs)
Dislikes: People blowing their noses in public, people who always try to outdo your story with theirs, people pretending to be something they’re not in order to impress others.

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