Wow! It’s been possibly the most hectic two months of my entire life. Novel-writing has taken centre stage: in fact, it’s been prancing around as the lead character, spouting monologues, demanding that the lighting be altered, and insisting on a bowl of grapes in the dressing room.
I love it, of course. This has been my dream since I was five and I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. Surrounded by notebooks, scrawling drafts on planes, tapping away the next chapter on my laptop…I’m truly happy.
It’s been pretty insane trying to juggle university classes with chapter submissions, drafts, research, notes and reading, but somehow I’m just about keeping up with it all. And it’s my first time attempting NaNoWriMo, ‘National Novel Writing Month’ – when writers everywhere get frazzled hair, drink copious amounts of coffee (Barry’s Tea, in my case) and pound out the chapters in an effort to reach 50,000 words of a novel by the end of November. I’m slightly cheating, though, by using NaNo more to keep up with my Creative Writing university deadlines. The critical part of my brain never sleeps, although I’m trying to focus more on producing the next chapter, instead of going back to edit. I slip up occasionally…oh well, you won’t tell, will you?
It’s hard to write a novel in a different country. In an earlier blog post, I talked about the intricate differences between Ireland and France, but how I have to ultimately accept their similarities to be happy here. It’s worked so far. I’ve met so many wonderful people here, of so many diverse nationalities, cultures and languages. Avignon has become a home away from home: the ancient university building, the walk down Rue de la République, roaming around the 14th Century Pope’s Palace, la Bibliothèque Universitaire (the University Library)…they have all become engraved in my memory, as if they are another life to my Irish one.
The courses I’m studying range from Shakespeare to British politics to French translation. The most daunting of them, I think, has been taking Creative Writing. Yes, Creative Writing. Easy, you say. No. It’s through French.
It has proved to be a whole new dynamic for me. I was quite nervous about taking up the subject; while I’ve always been a confident writer in English, I felt like I was throwing myself into the deep end writing in another language. I’d never even done it before; I hadn’t even considered doing it through Irish, my second language.
The French lecturer has been nothing but encouraging. Creating fiction through the medium of French is a challenge, especially when every single person around you is fluent in the language. Over the weeks, I’ve stopped thinking, “Hang on, what’s the verb for this word?” or “I wonder if I’m translating this correctly?” and I just…write. We get about half an hour to ‘free-write’ in every lecture, which is triple the time we’d normally get in a Creative Writing class in Galway. It’s fantastic. It’s given me a lot of freedom with the French language, like a whole new way I can express myself.
So, with only a month and a half until we break for Christmas (yes, I am one of those people who gets ridiculously excited months before December 25th), I can’t believe the time has flown so quickly in this small city. With ice-skating rinks and Christmas markets starting soon, it’s going to be an amazing end to 2011, and hopefully I’ll be clutching a heavy manuscript when I get back to Éire.