Tag Archives: gratitude

One Month Later…

When people ask me ‘is it hard work, getting published?’ I like to tell them yes, of course it is – but the real work comes afterwards. The Eye of the North is one month old now, and I’ve had a fun-packed few weeks of it, meeting readers and doing writing workshops and answering Twitter Q&As and basically pinching myself at least ten times a day, as it all seems too amazing to be real. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences, but I think the most special, for me, was speaking in front of almost 300 third-, fourth- and fifth-class pupils at Bunscoil Loreto in Gorey, which is the primary school I attended a very (very) long time ago. I enjoyed telling the children all about my journey from their school to published author-dom, and I hope they had as much fun as I did! I’ve been interviewed on radio, filmed in a library, and congratulated by practically everyone in my hometown – their pride in me and their support has been invaluable, and I’m so thankful.

Also, excitingly, The Eye of the North has been chosen as the #PrimarySchoolBookClub book of the month for March. This means that primary school teachers all over the United Kingdom will be reading my book during the month, and we’ll be convening on the 31st to discuss it, all on Twitter. If you’re a Twitterer, do check it out – and join in using the hashtag, if you like. I’d love to see you there!

And – as if that wasn’t enough – I also had the honour of being chosen as the Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week for the week beginning February 25th! All this, on top of the absolutely incredible support I’ve received from bloggers, reviewers, librarians, teachers and fellow authors… it’s all a bit overwhelming, at times. Thank you to everyone who has Tweeted, emailed, sent me a picture of the book in the ‘wild’, allowed me to see photos of their children enjoying the book, bought a copy for themselves or borrowed it from their local library, and who’ve helped me to squeeze every last drop of joy out of the first month of living my dream. It’s been hard work, for sure – but it’s also been the greatest happiness I’ve ever known in my working life, and I’m grateful for every moment.

I’m now working on editing my second book, which isn’t a sequel to The Eye of the North but a new story entirely… As soon as I can share the details, I will! Stay tuned for more – and thank you, again, for welcoming The Eye of the North into the world in such style.

Whoop! Let the adventurin’ begin!

 

Gratitude

This post will do what it says on the tin: I simply want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who contacted me – and there were lots of you – to say ‘congratulations’ after my announcement last week that I was successful in gaining a book deal.

Photo Credit: gregwake via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: gregwake via Compfight cc

As soon as the word was out, every social media account I have went crazy with notifications. People from my home town, old school friends, friends of my parents, people who sort-of vaguely know me through family members, and (quite possibly) a few people who don’t know me at all but got caught up in the excitement of it all, sent me so many messages that I couldn’t keep up. I had Tweets galore (and I even gained a few new followers! True, I lost a whack of ’em shortly afterwards, but as they come, so they go), and I had some lovely email messages from a writers’ group I’m part of (to which I shall respond!) In short, I had so many messages that I couldn’t reply to them all, though I did try my best. I wanted to say, though, that I appreciated every single message and that I’m massively pleased (not to mention slightly blown away and even a little embarrassed) by all the support and positivity, but most of all I’m extremely grateful. Thank you, everyone.

But, do you know something? It’s an overwhelming thing, getting a book deal. My anxiety demons have been awake and roaring for the past while – particularly during those weeks I spent knowing, behind the scenes, that the announcement was coming, but being unable to share it with anyone besides a very select and carefully chosen few – and for a person who, like me, isn’t comfortable with being in the spotlight, now that the announcement’s been made, it’s a weird mix of feelings. I’m very glad and grateful, to you all as well as to my steadfast family, but I’m also terrified. Nauseated with fear, in fact. That’s not something I expected. I read the most amazing blog post over the weekend, which – somehow – I managed to find on Twitter amid the tumult, and here‘s a link to it. You know how, sometimes, you read something and you think: That was meant for me? Even if the person who wrote it doesn’t know you, and will never know you, and certainly didn’t write anything with you in mind, it still speaks directly to your heart and your experience. That blog post is one of those things. I’ve never read anything which comforted me so much, and I think it’s important to talk about things like this – how it can be a terrifying thing to achieve a dream. How it can make you feel things you never expected to feel. How, sometimes, you get to where you wanted to go and you still feel lost, and how frightening that is.

In saying that I’m feeling things I didn’t expect, I’m not trying to take away from my gratitude. I am so glad that so many people were pleased for me, and wanted to share their congratulations, and that so many of my friends and family took the time to get in touch. It was wonderful to have good news to share, and I’m hugely glad to be part of such a supportive, positive and loving community.

But still.

I feel weird.

And, what’s more, I’m allowing myself to feel weird. I’ve been trying to suppress it and work through it and ignore it for months now, but from today, I’m going to own it. I’m going to climb the mountain of Weird and take a deep breath once I get to the top, and hopefully I won’t ever have to climb it again. The only way to deal with your feelings is to acknowledge they’re there, I’ve learned; suppression only serves to compact them in the base of your psyche, turning them over time into a hard layer of bad thinking which becomes difficult to shift. If I can look my weird feelings in the eye and say: ‘Hey. I know you’re there. You and me, we’re going to talk later, okay?’, I think it will help me hugely. And if more of us spoke up about the fact that sometimes, especially at the most unexpected moments, feelings of awkwardness and discomfort and fear and anxiety can come out of nowhere and overwhelm us – even when it seems like we should be at our strongest, or our happiest – I think it would make things easier for others who are also going through it, feeling like they’re totally alone.

Nobody is ever alone. I have learned this lesson in the last few days. I am part of a huge network of people, all connected by time and friendship and family and community, and I’m extraordinarily grateful for that. But I’ve also learned that no matter what you’re feeling, you’re never alone, either. It’s incredibly hard to share and be vulnerable (and I’m grateful, also, to Annabel Pitcher, the author of the blog post I linked to above, for being so open and candid about her own struggles), but if we all had the courage to share our fears, and let the people around us know that we’re all in this together, it could have a massively positive effect on our community.

I’m a weirdo. So, quite possibly, are you. And that’s perfectly okay.

Thank you for reading, for supporting, for being with me throughout this journey. Thank you for being part of my story. I’m grateful, too, to be part of yours.

I Wish it was an April Fool…

…to say that I feel like death warmed up today.

Image: smchealth.org

Image: smchealth.org

Perhaps yesterday’s post took everything I had; perhaps the wet, dank, cold and frankly irritating weather has ensured some nasty little bug has settled quite happily in my system. Either way, I have a throat so sore I can’t swallow properly, and I feel like I’ve run a marathon, and I’m struggling to keep my brain online.

Not, it must be said, a whole lot of fun.

However, I do just want to say an immense word of ‘thanks’ to everyone who read, commented upon, or was in any way moved by yesterday’s blog post. It was a terrifying thing to put out into the world but my heart and mind feel far more at peace today than they’ve felt for quite some time. I was very touched by the kindness that came spilling out of every corner of my life – people taking the time to write to me and, even, telephone me, to express their solidarity and their concern – but I wrote the post for purely selfish reasons, to try to exorcise a nasty, spiky demon who has been living in my brain since I was five years old.

Image: heroes.ag.ru

Image: heroes.ag.ru

He made his debut the first time I was teased in a school playground, and he grew in stature with every snide remark, half-covered laugh, and disapproving glance. He was there the day a teacher shamed me in front of my whole class because of my size. He laughed down my neck the day an adult – to my face – referred to me by an extremely derogatory name while laughing at the idea of me playing with my friends because they were sure I was too fat to run. (I was eight – and I was not.) He is in his element whenever any sort of social event looms on the horizon and the fear of having to buy something to wear starts to rise within me – the fear of having to look at my reflection, having to face up to the fact that nothing will fit, having to deal with how bad I look in outfit after outfit…

You get the picture.

There is a lifetime of hurt behind yesterday’s post.

So, thank you to all those who understood, and who cared. Thank you to all those who read my words. Thank you for helping me. The kindness I was shown was an unexpected, and very welcome, gift.

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

I spent all day yesterday proofreading and editing a technical document, so today – considering how I feel – will hopefully be spent dreaming up a story or two. Whatever you’re up to, may it go well.

Happy writing, and happy new page.

 

Unworthy

Today’s post is not just an excuse to use an image like this:

They weren't worthy! Neither am I! Image: teamliquid.net

They weren’t worthy! Neither am I!
Image: teamliquid.net

However, while it may not have been the main reason, I have to admit the thought of using this image was part of my decision-making process. I love ‘Wayne’s World’, the ‘We’re Not Worthy!’ sketch has always made me laugh, and – I promise – there’s a connection ‘twixt image and blog post. Today I wanted to write a bit about something which has been weighing on me lately, and it’s connected with a feeling of unworthiness, or a nagging sense of I’m not good enough and I should just give up now before I make an idiot of myself and everyone is probably secretly laughing at me.

It’s an extremely damaging thing, this feeling. Not only for my efforts to create a career, but also for my own mental health. As well as all that, it’s completely ridiculous, but I find it difficult to remember that at times.

Ever since I started to write, and made it public (i.e. by submitting work wherever I could submit it, starting this blog and telling people about what I was up to, and trying not to cringe while I described myself as ‘a writer’), I’ve received nothing but solid support. Everyone – including friends of friends, people who only know me through my parents or my husband or, amazingly, people who don’t know me in real life at all and who I’ve only met through the medium of the internet – has lifted me up on a swell of encouragement and has been delighted to hear about my efforts; several people have even told me how impressed they are by my decision to follow a dream and do my best to live the life I’ve always wanted. Sometimes, I wonder if this is part and parcel of being a writer in Ireland, where I still think creativity is seen as a good and noble thing and not completely off-the-wall – but then, I’ve received support from all over the world, so perhaps that’s beside the point. Whatever the reason, I am grateful beyond measure for every smidgen of encouragement, and I hope this feeling I’m trying to describe, this feeling of ‘unworthiness’, won’t be understood as ungrateful rejection of all the generous and loving support I’ve been lucky enough to receive. That’s not what I mean, at all. These unworthy feelings are something I’m imposing on myself; it’s not out of character for me, but I really wish I could stop doing it.

It all began to manifest like this: on one of the recent occasions where I had something accepted for publication, I remember greeting the news not with unalloyed joy and a sense of accomplishment, but with a tinge of discomfort and upset. I’ve been trying to work out why ever since, and I’ve concluded that it was because despite working hard over the story, I felt wasn’t good enough, and I hadn’t been expecting it to be accepted, and when it was – well. My brain sort of flipped.

I couldn’t bring myself to think that ‘maybe the story was a little bit better than you’d thought it was’ or ‘perhaps you’re being a little hard on yourself’; I started to think damaging and destructive things like ‘they must have been short on entries’ or ‘they needed to fill a space in the publication.’ Now, I’m pretty sure those things aren’t true. I’m pretty sure the publishers had no shortage of stories to choose from. They chose mine, but I couldn’t allow myself to be pleased. I started doing that thing I do – you know the one, where I have a reaction which I know is irrational and silly, but I can’t help myself – and it felt really unpleasant. I felt like I was unworthy of the honour of having my story accepted, like the publishers were doing me a favour instead of saying ‘This story is good enough to form part of our publication’; it made me feel very odd. I didn’t like it. At the same time, I didn’t really know what to do in order to tackle it.

Writing is not an easy thing – I’m not even talking about the act of pulling words out of your brain and slapping them down on a page, though that is difficult too, of course. What I mean is, it’s not an easy thing to spend so much time by yourself, and to have little but your own thoughts for company; even if, like me, you’re a person who enjoys being alone and who thrives in the world of the mind, it can be a challenge. I’m beginning to wonder if too much time spent thinking can lead to the struts which keep your mind steady buckling a little under the strain, which can affect the way you see the world and yourself, and your place in it. It’s hard, too, to pressure yourself just enough to meet all your obligations and deadlines without exerting too much force, and ending up pressuring yourself into oblivion. When you only have yourself to regulate the pressure, it’s clear that sometimes things can go wrong.

So, I’m taking that on board today, and I’m going to think about ways in which I can create a new balance in my life without sacrificing too much of my writing time. I may take a few days’ leave from the blog – a little holiday, perhaps – and I may print out, in big letters, a sign which says the words YOU ARE ENOUGH! and place it over my desk. I am enough – I do enough – I will be enough.

I hope nobody can relate to this post, and that you’re all too clever to allow yourselves to fall into a trap like this one. I hope that your writing lives (and your non-writing lives, come to that!) are flourishing, that you’re taking it easy, and not piling pressure on your own heads. Thank you for all your support – I hope I’ll be able to continue counting on it! – and I hope Tuesday turns out to be a jewel of a day for all of you.

And remember – you are enough!

Appreciation

I don’t have a lot of time to write today, either – and it’s possible this will be my last blog of the week.  Where I’m going (i.e. the deepest, darkest countryside!), they don’t have a reliable internet connection…

I wanted to devote this short note to saying ‘thank you’ to everyone who has taken the time over the past month or so to check in here and keep me company.  Last night, this blog ticked over into the 2,000s – in other words, more than 2,000 people have looked at it since I set it up just about five weeks ago.  I can see that a lot of my readers come from Australia and Canada, several in the United States, India, Pakistan, Korea – even Hong Kong! I’ve had people reading me in Switzerland, Belgium and – of course – my ‘home islands’, the United Kingdom, and my own beloved Ireland.  When I started this venture, I thought maybe my mother and my mother-in-law, along with some of my stalwart friends, would occasionally take a look at this blog, but that for the most part I’d be talking into a void.  Instead, I’ve ‘met’ wonderful people from all over the globe, and I’ve had the privilege of taking a peek into their lives and journeys via their own blogs, and it has been an exhilarating experience.

 
I don’t ordinarily count myself among those who think that technology is an indispensable part of modern life – usually, I fear we’ve lost something intimate and kind in this digital, screened age in which we live.  It makes me sad to see people preferring to look at their tablet than the real world, and it really makes me sad to see people texting, or otherwise using their ‘smart’phones, instead of engaging with another person.  In relation to this blog, however, I’m willing to admit my initial misgivings were far wide of the mark – you might remember one of my earliest blogs discussed my fears and insecurities around blogging.  I now know that writing here, gaining regular readers, commenters and friends, has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever been able to do.  Some of the kindest and most supportive feedback I’ve had on this blog has come from people who don’t know me, in the traditional sense, and for whom I’m just a collection of blobs on a website.  I truly couldn’t have imagined that so many people would want to read what I have to say, and I hope that my posts here will continue to be interesting.  I hope that, over the next few months, I’ll have lots to blog about, and it would be brilliant to have you all along for the journey.

Thank you all, most sincerely.  I’m just an ordinary gal, trying to do her best, and it’s so good to know I’m not the only one out there.  Have some flowers, and Happy Thursday!