MORE INTERESTING BITS

Here you will find stories, facts, folklore, and a sneak peek at the writing tips you may expect to encounter on Ireland Writer Tours . . . 

 
A Haunted Landscape

When Roman Christianity invaded Ireland in the 12th century, a shameful Irish custom began, and continued until the 1960s. It was decreed that no unbaptised child or individual could be buried in consecrated ground. This was a concept used by theologians in an effort to compel individuals to be baptised into the Catholic faith.

Most unbaptised children, as well as victims of murder, disease or suicide, were buried in a lisheen. One such lisheen lies in the Ower countryside of County Galway, on the Black River. It is atop an ancient Iron Age ring fort, which is now an overgrown forest. To previous generations, this ruin would have been a ‘faerie fort,’ a landscape haunted by the fey. A place in between worlds, much like the ‘Limbo,’ unbaptised babies would be resigned to. To reach the lisheen, you have to traverse around briars and prickly hawthorne trees. In the springtime, the ground in this forest is covered in beautiful white wild garlic flowers. Always there is an air of extreme peacefulness here—an almost eerie calm—occasionally punctuated by the fluting of birds in the trees overhead and the rush of the river far below.

The land slopes down into the forest and the ground is covered in tumbled, moss-covered stones. Headstones.
Back when most babies were born at home and infant mortality was high, parents suffered unbearable grief and anguish, believing that their child would never get to heaven or they’d never see their unbaptised loved ones again. Standing in this forest, it’s easy to imagine a father burdened with the task of bringing a baby here, probably under cover of darkness, and laying the tiny creature in a shallow grave without a wake, or any support from neighbours.

In the centre of this forest is a large rectangular mound of stones which it is said was once an altar where the local Franciscan monks said mass during the time of the Cromwell invasion.
The Ower lisheen, like most of the Irish landscape, is fertile both agriculturally and emotionally . . . a place where stories seem to come up out of the ground, grab you by the ankle, and demand, ‘Write me!’

If you're joining us this summer, prepare to be inspired!


Tackling a Writer's Greatest Challenge - Time Management

As I sit down to write this post, I’m racing the clock. I have an essay due for Writer’s Digest, pages due to my writing partner for a book we’re doing together, a full manuscript edit for a client, and my critique partner just sent me her novel for feedback. To say nothing of my children’s activities. Thank God I just unloaded my latest novel on my agent. Writers are busy. We’re stressed. We’re anxious. No matter how much time we have to write, it never feels like enough. So how do we survive it at all? Below, I’ve shared a few tips that have helped me stay afloat over the years. Also? Drink coffee and wine. Lots of it.

THE WRITER WITH A FULL-TIME JOB
There’s no doubt about it, having a full-time job takes up the majority of our waking hours, making writing a challenge. I would suggest making a list of priorities and how much time you’d like to spend on each activity. Once you’ve done that, create a writing calendar of some sort. (I use a separate planner from the family calendar to keep it all straight. Anything writing-related from blog posts to speaking engagements to actual writing, I fill in on this calendar.) Treat your writing them as if it’s a non-negotiable appointment. If you tend to get home and want to crash with fatigue, try staying at work one extra hour in the evening, or getting in to work an extra hour early and spend it writing. This way when you come home, you’ve accomplished your writing and can shift into relaxation mode. Perhaps you prefer some down time first, and then write late at night. Set an attainable goal, check in with a writing partner, and get busy. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, it just needs to be effective, focused time.
THE WRITER WITH BABIES
I started writing with a two year old and an infant. Luckily, I didn’t work full-time on top of this, but I did do part-time teaching and tutoring, and had no money for daycare and no family nearby. This is a toughie. You’re exhausted from the lack of sleep and barely keeping up with regular routine chores. How in the world can you fit in writing time? Everyone says to write while the kids nap, but for me, that wasn’t possible. I needed sleep then as well. What worked for me was to find an hour or two every other day or so when my husband came home from work. But the bulk of my writing didn’t happen until the weekends. I committed to write every Saturday and Sunday morning from seven to noon. I left plenty of milk in the fridge, packed my computer bag, and parked my derrière at Starbucks. Every.Single.Weekend. It helped eliminate distractions, and my leaving the house became a routine the family grew to expect. Just like a regular work or school schedule.

The most important thing to do during this time is to be kind to yourself. This sort of survival existence won’t last forever, though it may feel like it at the time. Take the time when you can, knowing you plan to move into a more regular schedule when the babies either sleep through the night, or go off to school.

THE WRITER WHO JUGGLES MULTIPLE JOBS

This type of schedule presents its own problems. With fits and stops dispersed throughout your day or work week, it can be tough to find your flow. But just like the others, it’s important to block off chunks of scheduled time that are non-negotiable. Also, consider setting up a strict routine that helps you shift your brain into fiction mode. Clear off any clutter on your desk. Make a soundtrack associated with the book that you play each time you sit down to begin. Light candles. Prepare your mind space with this series of signals that mean “fiction time!”. This sort of repetitive practice has been studied at length and is proven to work. It may help you make the most of your truncated time.
THE WRITER WHO WRITES FULL TIME
Believe it or not, many who write full time wrestle with time management. It isn’t that they don’t have enough hours in the day, it’s that staying focused for long periods can be a challenge. For one, everyone is online during the week so Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are pinging like crazy. Your inbox is flooded with emails. There’s also this notion that writers don’t really “work” so friends want to meet for lunch, family wants to drop by, and so on. Distractions abound. Sometimes having less time means you’re more devoted to your writing periods. Isn’t there a saying about the busier you are, the more you accomplish? To you full-timers I say this: make a daily word count goal or page number if editing. Work in blocks of time, just like the others scrounging up time.

For example, my schedule looks like this:
7:00-8:00 is kids, coffee, and social media.
8:00-9:30 is some sort of exercise.
9:30-11:30 is writing time.
12:30-1:30 is lunch, emails, and perhaps a walk or some sort of movement.
1:30-3:30 is writing time.
3:30--- Kid pickups. If you don’t have kids, take a break for an hour and then sit down for another hour or two, or until you accomplish your goal.
OTHER TIPS
· Studies show we stay focused better for shorter chunks of time and that three hours is the maximum quality time spent on a project at one time. Breaking up the day keeps productivity at a maximum.

· Find a writer friend who shares the same schedule as you do. Check in with each other the same time every day and do sprints. You can sprint against each other for highest word count, or you can just set goals for the hour and check in once the hour is concluded to check each other’s progress. Being held accountable to someone is a terrific way to stay motivated.

· Establish a routine to get your mind into fiction writing mode

· Set a timer after 30 minute or one-hour time periods so you feel the ticking away of valuable time. It’s this weird psychology but it works

· Use internet-blocker software to keep yourself off of social media

· Set up a system of rewards when small and large goals are accomplished. (ex: If I write 350 words this hour, I can spend 10 minutes on social media.)

What it all boils down to is HOW MUCH YOU WANT THIS. If you’re passionate about writing, you’ll make time, even in the smallest increments, to spend with your characters. If you find you’re constantly frustrated about how little you’re accomplishing, it might be time to reassess your priorities. Perhaps there are changes you can make to your schedule to maximize productivity. Above all, keep at it! Persistence in the face of frustration is the key to success.
ADDENDUM:
This year, I'm using the inspiration and energy of Nanowrimo to finish edits on a work in progress as well as crank out 20,000 words on a brand new novel. In other words, my schedule will be tighter than usual, but who can resist all of that creative gusto rippling through the writer-sphere? I'm on it! Good luck to those of you who are joining me!


“The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

― G.K. Chesterton

Two centuries ago, Celtic tribes dominated Europe from the Black Sea to the British Isles, from Galicia in northwest Spain to Galatia in modern-day Turkey.

Eventually, three main Celtic groups were dominant: The Gauls lived in what is now France, Britons lived in Great Britain, and Gaels lived in Ireland.

Naturally, these different groups of Celts had different dialects and practices, which probably made for some pretty confusing conversations.

One thing that united all these different tribes of Celts was their belief in life after death. In ancient Ireland, you were born, you lived, you died, and you came back. Then you repeated the whole process over and over and over again. So strong was this belief that you could take out a loan and promise to pay it back in your next lifetime. People spoke to the dead just as they did to the living. And if you died in the middle of an argument, well . . . It wasn’t over ‘til it was over.
If you join us for an Ireland Writer Tour next summer, you’ll likely encounter some interesting aspects of the Irish language. Since both tours are based in the west of the country, you’ll see road signs in Irish: Go Mall - slow down. An Gaeltacht – a region where Irish is spoken. And if you’re looking for a public toilet (NOT called a restroom), it will likely be labelled Mná for Women or Fir for Men.

Even more fun than the road signs will be the people you meet. At least some of them will have names that either frustrate you or make you laugh. Lee Mack explains it far better than I can:

Be sure and check back again. Our next post will be about writing!