‘I was so sincere . . . I was so annoying’

Dominique McMullan is challenging herself to do something different every week: this week, she goes to a creative writing class

Once a week I will put down my phone, pick up a pencil (remember those?) and add fresh pages to the pile. Photograph: Getty Images

Once a week I will put down my phone, pick up a pencil (remember those?) and add fresh pages to the pile. Photograph: Getty Images

 

This week I attended my first ever creative writing class. Hidden in the depths of journalists’ souls are dejected wannabe writers with dreams of best-selling novels. Or so I hear. There are myths and legends about the ones that make it in the real world. “You know (insert best-selling author’s name)? He used to work here; I actually sat beside him for a while. Sometimes we talked about books we’d write over Cully and Sully microwave soups.”

My course is three weeks’ long so it probably won’t be my direct path to stardom (not that I don’t enjoy the day job). My classmates include a poet, a school principal and a PhD in English literature. It’s not just journalists with tortured souls. Late at night, we meet in a brightly-lit classroom, and sit in a semi-circle on small uncomfortable plastic chairs. We wear name tags. We read excerpts from old books. We talk about what stops us from writing. Feelings come up a lot. It’s cathartic.

The professor suggests we start keeping diaries. Not the “Dear Diary, today I had a ham sandwich”, type; journals of interesting things seen or heard. Facial expressions, little chunks of conversation from the Dart. The way a leaf looks in a puddle.

I kept diaries until the age of 22. Very few leaves made an appearance, but there were plenty of Dart conversations. Those diaries are the most embarrassing things I own. I’d save them in a fire but I’d fold myself inside out if anyone read them. I was so sincere. I was so annoying.

I’m going to tell him that I love him, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t feel the same after a week

Every second page is a declaration of love (“It’s real this time, when you know you just know”). I was very brave (“I’m going to tell him that I love him, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t feel the same after a week”). I was very stupid (“I’ve decided money doesn’t actually matter to me”). I wish I was still like that.

Imagine how many pages are gathering dust in homes around Ireland. All those feelings growing old and yellow. My classmates and I will continue to meet once the course is over. Once a week I will put down my phone, pick up a pencil (remember those?) and add fresh pages to the pile. I’m actually quite looking forward to the uncomfortable chairs and chats about feelings.

  • Do you have suggestions for what Dominique should try next? Email your ideas to dmcmullan@irishtimes.com
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