Anne's shares her top tips for aspiring writers...
I love lists and ‘How to …’ manuals, but like most people, I read them and then promptly forget to follow the advice.
So, if you want to write, you must trick yourself!
How to trick yourself into writing?
1. Get up early- set the alarm for one hour earlier than usual. Tell yourself it’s worth it. This is an important mission. You would do it to catch a plane!
2. Allow yourself ten extra minutes in bed- but this is to access the ‘hypnopompic’ state, where you dream. Close your eyes again, to see and imagine and visualise the setting of your story, and what your characters are doing. So now you have a film in your head behind your eyelids. Your job is to
capture it in words.
3. Boil the kettle, make tea, and drink tea! Lots of it! Or coffee, if that’s your poison. Kick start your brain.
4. Refuse absolutely to pick up the washing and load the machine. Or dishwasher. They can wait. That plane is about to take off.
5. Listen to the news headlines- then switch off the radio! It’s all blather and you don’t need to stuff your brain with it. Press the button. You can do it.
6. Scroll through your phone for your messages- then bury the phone under a cushion on the sofa in another room! Make sure it’s on silent.
7. Go for a walk- even around the sitting room. Or hang your head out the window. Breathe fresh air. Lots of it. Your blood cells need oxygen.
8. Nail yourself to the hard chair- it must be hard! Or use chains…(glue is too messy).
9. Use the bathroom before chaining or nailing. No excuses!
10. Set a target- one page, two pages, three pages if you write longhand. Or, 1,000 words minimum at the first sitting.
Get into the zone. Tap those keys. Take up that pencil. Go!!
“A hypnopompic state (or hypnopomp) is the state of consciousness leading out of sleep, a term ... non-linear images and associations; the hypnopompic state is emotional and credulous dreaming cognition trying to make sense of real world”
Let us not become immune...
I can’t listen to stories of mistreatment any more.
I retch when I see dead foxes mashed on the motorway.
So when I heard about the Tuam Babies, my stomach flipped.
This latest news item was confirmation of previous revelations about babies being buried in a septic tank outside an institution in Tuam, Co. Galway. This had made news two years ago when a local historian found the records, but not bodies. Now there was proof. This time, this year, they excavated the ‘tomb’ and discovered rows upon rows of tiny bodies, wrapped in towels or sheets. Mummified. But this isn’t the Catacombs of Ancient Rome, or Tutankhamun’s Egypt of the Pharoahs. This is the twenty first century and these bodies had been buried in fifty to seventy years previously. Why?
Media outrage followed, with radio talk shows full of witness accounts. Residents of Tuam remembered the ‘home’ children, how they were different, set apart, how they could hear them coming to school in the mornings, their wooden clogs clip clopping on the pavements. And then, how they, the ‘normal’ children, were not allowed to sit with them, in case of an unsaid contamination. How once, they played a trick on an orphan child, offering him a stone wrapped in sweet paper. The teller of this tale now recounts his shame, as the child’s eyes lit up in anticipation. He had never eaten a sweet before. And now, he would not either, as all he got was hoots of laughter, and a searing humiliation.
The most telling detail in all of this outpouring was this: the nuns had a spiral staircase leading from the back of the altar down into an underground tunnel, which led into the giant hollow of the septic tank.
This implies to me ‘malice aforethought’. This was no accident. This was by design. These babies had to be hidden. Their short lives did not matter. They were the product of sin. And society buried its shame. Were their souls not also to be saved? Given a decent burial? To be blessed? Apparently not.
And sadder still as the ripples of this legacy reach us now many years later, who were their mothers? Did they have fathers, even, ever? And maybe brothers and sisters. A name? A family? Those siblings who may now come forward to claim them?
We are ashamed. As a nation, as a people. But there is no room for smug complacency. Horrors like this continue to fester in our own day: neglect of children; kids growing up in hotel rooms because of a housing crisis; kids sent to school hungry. Babies left to die.
Anne McCabe is a storyteller who has won many awards for her documentaries and original TV dramas with strong social themes. Anne joined RTE, the Irish national broadcaster, as the youngest producer/director to date, and then the new TG4, the Irish-language channel, in 1996 as Commissioning Editor. Anne has adapted international thriller writer Ken Bruen's