One of the things I like most about writing is that it’s with you all the time. You can write in almost any situation, in any place. Writing doesn’t require specialist equipment or a specific location. You can be writing in a public space without anyone knowing it. Tapping out a line or the kernel of a story and saving it as a draft message on your phone. Scribbling down an idea or the scrap of an overheard conversation on the back of a bus ticket. Repeating words over and over so you remember them, beginning an otherwise long, laborious day at work with the first hint of an idea, watching it develop as the shift flies past. Writers, more than artists and musicians, are privileged in this way – with the constant companionship of and discreet access to the craft. This can be something to treasure, across a whole life.
When you’re writing, you’re also watching. You notice more. There is significance everywhere, as patterns, connections, and stories emerge. Writing focuses and concentrates the mind. It encourages empathy, in the attempt to imagine the world as it might look from others’ perspectives. The biggest instruction I’ve taken from writing is that the world is always interesting. If I feel bored, if things seem repetitive, it’s my fault. I’m not looking hard enough. The craft of writing, additionally, can be incredibly rewarding. There is satisfaction in writing clear, controlled, and original work – in giving form to the imagination. The ability to express thoughts persuasively, succinctly, meanwhile, is invaluable throughout one’s personal and professional life.
Regardless of how strong an idea is, it counts for little without putting in the time and effort to develop it. First drafts are, almost inevitably, disappointing. Many people are put off because they’re disappointed by initial results, being too hard on themselves, and not allowing themselves the time to experiment, learn, and improve. It can take years to work through an idea, trying it out from different perspectives, in various styles, adjusting everything until finally, hopefully, it fits. Writing teaches patience and determination; you need to be dedicated and single-minded to see a project through. You need to be prepared to see failure as inevitable, but not final. There are lessons here that apply across life.
What most impressed me in the work I’ve seen by the St Aloysius’ students was the combination of strong ideas with vivid, original writing. These are ambitious stories, addressing large topics, and they are rendered in careful, interesting prose. Alison McIntosh’s ‘The Apple of My Eye’ uses a daring, sophisticated narrative conceit, fusing time periods, moving from celebration to mourning, turning on the reader’s expectations to create an impressively mature portrait of grief. The writing is fluid, graceful, and compelling, and we are left with the sense that life can unravel at any moment. ‘The Pill that Opens the Gates to Heaven’, by Joshua Edwardson, centres on a striking, brilliant idea – a narcotic that briefly mimics the experience of death – which would not be out of place in the short fiction of J.G. Ballard or Philip K. Dick. I enjoyed the wit of this story, as well as the writer’s confident use of a scientific register. Finally, ‘An Imaginary Family’, by Aidan Murray, is a wonderful piece of creative non-fiction. Aidan writes about a devastating event, but he does so in a way that celebrates the wonder and imagination of the two friends at the heart of the story. Two particular moments have stayed with me: the creation of ‘Alan Pecia,’ a monster figure who carries off children’s hair, and the final two lines, which are brilliant and moving.
These writers are bold, pushing against the reaches of their imagination. They show talent and originality, and indicate a promising future both for themselves and for the other students of the College’s Department of English.