I’d rather pick peanuts from a camel turd using only my flared nostrils, than revisit some very peculiar moments of my life. Leaving aside the multitude of deep emotional tragedies that we all invariably face as we pass through this life, I have had my fair share of icky, sticky, ouchy mc gouchy type of experiences that in fairness, have done me no harm when it comes to my writing.
I’m a demon for using things that have happened to me, perhaps with a twist or two to get to the pain or sorrow I need when writing a book. For example, I nearly drowned once, one tale I have yet to use, I went towards the light on the operating table, peeked through and crawled back into the comfort of the dark on this side, and that will definitely feature in a future book. But in truth, it’s really the more specifically unpleasant or painful stuff that I like to use, the nose bursting, leg breaking, rib crunching, snot filled trauma that puts you in casualty that I have found most useful.
Kissing girls with bad breath at fifteen. The trauma caused by the sniff of a girl who crushes you with a simple “Go out with you? You must be joking.” There’s the curse of being great fun as in “You’re great fun… I really like you… as a friend” just when you think you’ve pulled sort of pain. It is all very useful when it comes to ‘keeping it real’ but there is really nothing like the memory of your nuts being crushed in a vice, to help you create a sense of pain when you’re telling a tale.
The best things that have ever happened to me, are the worst things that have ever happened to me, as a writer at least. The memory of catching my penis skin in the zip of my trousers when I was seven, the first time a well shod foot made contact with my testicles. The after effect of not being able to breathe, think, or get up afterwards for such a long time; these things are all beautifully etched in my tick-tock brain.
Thinking I was cool wearing my older brother’s afghan coat to school when I was twelve, only to be called a w**ker by all and sundry. Having the nebs to carry it off regardless, owning the glory of his cast off coffee and cream, star emblazoned platform boots, beneath the flared jeans that accompanied that coat. Making sure to wear it for at least as long as anyone dared slag me off, to prove I didn’t care while I wilted inside. Being mugged at knife-point by a gang of psychos who threatened to cut my friends finger off for a lousy signet ring. Sliding across the busiest thoroughfare in Dublin through a pool of spilt whitewash and then, trying to beg a bus conductor to let me on the bus home, as I dripped white paint from every piece of clothing.
I am truly grateful that my life has been so blessed. Waking up hungover in Ballyshannon on a Sunday morning. Expected to play in the final of an under nineteen’s basketball tournament, only to face my team-mate offering me a half finished pint of last night’s Guinness as a curer. Taking the cure, playing the match, winning and revisiting the same Guinness as it decided it didn’t want to live in my stomach at half time. Learning the meaning of never again.
Every single horrible or unpleasant memory holds such great value. I don’t need to repeat the tales verbatim; I only need to revisit the feeling. The happy feelings are easy to describe and again I have plenty of happy memories to find my way to that place, but when you need a your reader to feel repulsed , shocked or horrified, it does no harm to have some moments to rely on that you knew at the time, would never leave you.. well apart from that second-hand Guinness. That one left me, oh yes and if I recall it correctly, that particular one left me several times that Sunday afternoon. It certainly felt that way as I recall…ah the good old days…what good new books are made of…
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