This year was the 12th anniversary of the day I first posted a photo online and called it a blog! In those days blogging was a big deal especially amongst groups of women around the world who discovered the world of Blogger and WordPress and took a lash at it. After my first few blogposts I struck up friendships with many of them. Some have gone on to careers through their own creativity and others have found a cosy niche in which to express themselves and find their tribe. I think I am one in a very cosy niche.
I had no grand scheme in mind. I had just woken up to digital photography and would post photos from my immediate surroundings with a few words on “the ordinary and the everyday” of life down a long lane. This creative experiment led to a daily practice of walking in nature and learning about this place. The writing at first was tentative, a diary of one small piece of the universe, at a particular time. I now like to think of it as a form of folk writing.
When I would lose a bit of confidence or wonder why I was doing it, I would think about a silver haired Peig Sayers the story teller, living on a small island in the Atlantic; both of us folk writers I would tell myself. Peig would always settle me down. Her voice was loud and clear. “You don’t have to be literary genius, you are an ordinary woman of a certain age, who writes and takes photos. Get on with it!.” And so I did.
Even last year when my book Solace was published, I thought about Peig. When you find your book in a bookshop squeezed between Bono and Prince Harry you need all your strength not to feel that an older woman writing about love, loss and the healing power of nature had no business being in that company at all! But like the Peig in my head always says, “Yes, she can if she is true to herself and her place.”
Women of my age often have low expectations about what we are capable of and indeed what we deserve. This makes it almost impossible to blow your own trumpet or to sell yourself as they say you should in all the How To books. And so it unfolded over the years that when opportunities came my way I often hadn’t a clue what to do with them. I was never attracted to the world of influencing, and as a signed up member of the introvert brigade, I had no urge to be “out there.” This is where the next phase began and it took close collaboration with others.
The first big step was when the Editor of the Waterford News and Star, the most encouraging Mary Frances Ryan spotted my blog and thought maybe I could write a column. I just started doing it. Whenever I asked her how I was progressing she would say “There could be a bit more bite in it.” That still makes me laugh as it is as relevant today as ever it was! I’ve been writing my column every fortnight for 7 years. Don’t think I ever missed one either!
My next special collaborator was my late friend Kate Quinn. I met her through the Waterford Healing Arts and she was indeed a kindred spirit. Kate had life threatening health issues but her zest for life and her fearlessness challenged me to up my game. As we shared a passion for nature and photography, it was Kate who suggested an ambitious exhibition as part of the Imagine Festival in Waterford. There is no doubt that Kate pushed me, often when I didn’t want to be pushed. I like to think that I brought my organisational skills to the party. What a blast we had. Sadly our beloved beautiful Kate died earlier this year, aged 36.
Then the brilliant Nicola Reddy of The O’Brien Press approached me about writing a book. This is what I have described as “a kid in a sweet shop moment.” Totally stunned, out of my depth and yet undaunted I began to outline what it could be. In a way Solace wrote itself from then on. (Although I might tend to over romanticise writing just like I do with everything else.) Micheal O’Brien the publisher who was almost 80 at the time, gave me a good talking to about my advancing age saying that I had at least 10 books in me! The editor Susan Houlden and the book designer Emma Byrne “got me”, so I felt supported and looked after. Sadly Michael O’Brien died just before the book was published and I never got a chance to thank him in person for his belief in me and so many other creative writers, illustrators and photographers.
These three collaborations with people who had other skills and roles in life certainly supported this introvert to take steps that otherwise I would never have taken. 12 years later from that first rainy day blog, I can now look back and exhale. While I loved writing Solace-life, loss and the healing power of nature, it has brought me, very reluctantly into the light a bit more. I’m still learning how to do that well. If any of you have advice, let me know!
Perhaps there is more to say but for now, that is the state of play. Creativity is a way to discover the world and find your place in it. Collaboration is the key to getting projects from idea stage to completion. Being “out there” may feel like you are over exposed but I see now that it is part of the whole cycle of a creative life.
Thank you all, go raibh míle maith agaibh, for being there over the last 12 years. Let’s keep on keeping on and see where it all leads us to next……….
Well done on it all Catherine and thank you for the reminder and the encouragement to keep going: “Being “out there” may feel like you are over exposed but I see now that it is part of the whole cycle of a creative life.” 🙂
Catherine Drea says
I still don’t like the being out there part though!! Haha! I have a vague memory of meeting you in the Book Centre, probably 10 years ago, and we talked about blogging. I think you were starting at the time. Would ya look at the pair of us now……There’s nothing like just getting on with it Andrew is there? So yes, long may we continue to nudge each other along the path. Thanks for all your support. C.
I have always enjoyed your photographs and your art and your words.
Catherine Drea says
Thank you so much. And I have really appreciated all of your support over the years. Cx
Donna Donabella says
Love being with you on this wild ride!