Writer DNA: Blood, sweat, nails and hair


The better my writing goes, the more of myself I leave behind. That is true for the story, where the stronger the impact of the piece, the more likely it is that I have imbued it with some authentic emotion, some recognisable evidence of  common humanity, my version of it. It is also true of my surroundings. As every writer will know, a period of sustained writing, or sustained presence in the company of a story will result in the accumulation of copious debris on nearby surfaces, not least of which debris is the evidence of the writer’s own DNA.

A warning to the squeamish, what follows may not be pretty..

We begin fairly innocuously. We have a desk strewn with a pile of books. Jurgen Wolff’s  ‘Your Writing Coach’, The Penguin English Diction and The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms, The Creative Writing Coursebook – a great book from staff at the renowned East Anglia Creative Writing MA. A Cottage Garden Day Book (empty – how can I fill in those white spaces beside the lovely pictures?). Several A4 notebooks in different colours, two of which are the repositories of my ideas at any time of the day or night and The Book of Joy, a personal journal from about 20 years ago, prose, poetry, musings on sorrow and joy, nature, connectedness, friendship and love. (Everything then!) Oh and the DK book of Insects (was trying to identify a beetle for a writer friend, after a twitter plea).

Then it begins to get grittier. Around the room we have a scattering of paperclips and paperclip necklaces (DNA chains?).  On the table are cups of old and dusty water, there are tissues,(urghh)  a crumbled Galaxy wrapping, two pairs of socks, two pairs of shoes and a pair of slippers. Remember, these are all the props that have kept me going, this is the evidence of my toil.

Finally (along with the tissues) we have the rest of the bodily evidence, the odd torn off fingernail and a carpet full of hair, because that is my vice, combing my hair through with my fingers while thinking and letting it drop to the floor. I told you it wouldn’t be pretty.

Gene Fowler has said ‘Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.’

It’s early days but there beginning to be evidence of a creativity gene that got humans on the track of artistic expression.  With all the blood, sweat and other body parts around here, there’s plenty of writer DNA to investigate. Failing that you can always read my stories.

What evidence do you leave of your Writer DNA? Spill your dark secrets. I would love to hear your comments.

Why I write.

What has been wonderful in the last few days is getting feedback from my published story Bog Body. Although I’ve had a couple of stories published in magazines before, this was the first time that – thanks to modern technology – I was able to receive feedback not only from friends and acquaintances but also those in the general population that had found the link to my story.

This has been said before, but writing is a solitary occupation and the circumstances of being a stay at home mum mean that I circulate more in the private than public domain.  Having had this publication has helped me get ‘out there’ (see the use of that phrase in the Bog Body story – with its themes of constraint and stagnation).  The comments I received were wonderful, the general impression was that people could really feel themselves in the story, it resonated with them. Here are some thoughts I had jotted down recently about writing. 

‘Being a writer is like digging, turning over the soil of life and revealing, unearthing and making ready the ingredients of adventure.

Sends shivers. Done right, writing connects to the shaft of light reaching between the soul and everyday, illuminates the world with it, directs and diffuses the beam into the readers life.  

That one moment, that butterfly wing, that blink, that swallow, that turn of the head, that fall of a petal, that lift of breeze catching the hair, that tipping point, that second that everything changes. That held breath. When I write I want you to hold your breath, jump into the story, drown in it, feel something, a flicker, some resonance that reverberates in the back of your brain now and maybe later unexpectedly, fusing your experience of life with mine and humankind in general.’

At least with this story I have been assured that I may in some way have achieved this connection that is absolutely the reason I write.

Link to ‘Bog Body’ by Alison Wells  http://www.tribune.ie/arts/article/2009/aug/02/bog-body/
Interesting article by Anne Enright on her personal experience of whether or not someone can be taught to write:

Bog Body Discovered by Sunday Tribune!

Get my head above water?  Well I must have done or perhaps not… My story Bog Body – which is about being submerge and trapped among other things has been published by Ciaran Carty in The  Sunday Tribune’s New Writing section, yesterday August 2nd! 


I discovered it was to be published only a few days before while visiting family in Kerry.  Without broadband I did not venture to update my blog and have come here to discover so many of you visited yesterday! I hope to greet you again!

It is such an honour to be chosen for the New Writing section, particularly as the story is automatically shortlisted for the Hennessy Literary Awards next year.


As I said to a friend, after I found out I was like a child who suddenly remembers its Christmas Eve and finds themselves grinning and spinning with excitement.

Thanks to all of you who sent your best wishes by various technological means. Now that I am back online, normal service will resume and the site will be updated to include a blogroll  etc so I look forward to connecting with other likeminded in the near future.