There are some people you come across in life that you just like immediately and for me Olivia Hope is one of these. I had ‘met’ Olivia on Twitter, but not for real until last November. We were both guests of writing.ie at the BGE Irish Book Awards and Olivia was sitting next to me at the table. I actually had spotted her in the hotel we were both staying in previously as she had the glamour on, but I was unaware of who she was.
Olivia is from Kerry and is a children’s writer with her debut book, Be Wild, Little One, due for release in 2019 with Bloomsbury.
I was delighted when Olivia agreed to write a post for #IrishWritersWed so I’ll hand you over to Olivia now and her piece entitled ‘Sparks’…
About effort, inspiration and happiness as a writer.
by Olivia Hope
I am what you would describe as an older new writer. I didn’t get an agent until I was 40, and my first book deal came a year later.
Nowadays when I read articles aimed at young writers, I nod knowingly at how much there is to learn, how much I need to grasp about publishing and how my enthusiasm may be gift, but it’s no match for experience. Despite all this, I still like the feeling of being a shiny new writer, that feeling of untapped potential, so many stories in me that could be written.
I think I am someone who is easily inspired. I like reading books – any genre, across age groups. I get lost in music. I dance – all the time. I still daydream. More than ever, probably. If you asked me to write on a topic, I could…well, I’d have an opinion (who doesn’t?)
I expect that I should be able to write, but it has felt like an effort of late, and truthfully, it hasn’t been easy for a while. I wonder is it because I know too much about how writing can go wrong now. Have I caused writing paralysis by over analysis? This may not be an unusual feeling for long time seasoned writers, part of the cycle, I suppose, but it’s a new one to me.
I often compare this experience with two teaching jobs I had. Both had very satisfying outcomes in the end; one was teaching young children physical education, another was teaching English to repeat leaving cert students. I love teaching, but I worked so much harder with the older reluctant students. It was tough for me – upsetting at times, frustrating too.
But the junior school where I taught PE was a dream. Instinctive fun. I skipped into the Junior School. Every day. I enjoyed it so much because the freedom to be creative in my teaching was natural. Sock monsters in the swimming pool, Going on a Bear Hunt dance lessons, aerobics to Kylie Minogue (because – why not?)
The experience with the reluctant teenagers was not the same. I had knots in my gut. I couldn’t sleep. The worry of not doing the right thing in this teaching scenario was something that I couldn’t get out of my head (yes, a Kylie pun) I wracked my brain to come up with new ways to make the subject accessible. Herding a troop of 19 year olds to Killarney National Park to discuss Gerard Manley Hopkins’ ‘Spring’ was a highlight, but I still had the uncertainty of being a good enough teacher, something I had never considered in the junior school.
Here’s the realisation I had, despite the differences in processes, I still ended up being a creative teacher in both scenarios. I owed it to the children to create as many learning experiences as possible. It stretched me.
So, it has not been easy, I am stretched, like the toughest version of that teaching job, but I still write. There is an effort and a fear and a worry about what I put down. That doubting voice that I still can’t get out of my head. Initial ideas feel clumsy and clunky. I have read and read in the hope I will be inspired by others and get that looseness in my writing, because that is the best part of writing, isn’t it? When the words to pour out of you, and you’re happy and carefree – instinctive fun, like Kylie aerobics.
The solution, I discovered, is inspiration. I found it not in a story, a novel, or poem. A film; and watching it hit my nerves, my skin, my bones. It was fun, simple in story, but that combination of music, dance, song, and the concept of difference and imagination as a force for good resonated in me like nothing before. The music, the dancing, the daydreaming, and making it all real.
Like the film was made just for me.
The feeling after I left the cinema, to paraphrase Gene Wilder, was pure imagination.
It should have been blatantly obvious to me that inspiration can come from anywhere. I mean, how many writers pull that gritted smile when asked where do they get their ideas from? I even wrote about having variety in your life as a creative, to ensure you can be open to influences across media and genres.
And because of it I want to write, I feel lighter, like there’s a bubbling, so much potential in new ideas. That energy. That I am happy to write.
The ability to be happy with what you write is probably an underestimated skill – it flies in the face of editing, self-criticism and comparison with other writers. But being happy when you write a first draft, that needs to be protected above all else, you owe it to yourself to shield that first voice, those first inspired ideas from all criticism. This is how it begins, how it should begin every time – a precious spark that should be allowed to flourish, without the looming constraints of future supposed versions of the text.
Celebrate your initiative, your spark, that instinctive fun.
Light the touchpaper.
Go with it.
About Olivia Hope:
Oliva Hope is a children’s writer from Killarney, Co. Kerry.
Olivia signed with the Darley Anderson Children’s Agency in 2015, which also boasts award-winning Irish writers Deirdre O’Sullivan and Dave Rudden.
Be Wild, Little One will be published by Bloomsbury in 2019. The picture book is about the relationship between child and their grandparent. It is an anthem for adventure, for living in both action and imagination, and how inspiration can come from tiny ideas.
Twitter ~ @oliviamhope
Facebook ~ Olivia Hope
(Image courtesy of writing.ie)