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Greatest Closing Lines In Literature

Something I’ve started paying greater attention to lately is the closing lines in various novels and poems. I always find that in the greatest pieces of literary work, the closing lines are the ones that really pack a punch. Below are some of my favourite closing lines in literature from the novels and poems I’ve read.

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte:

I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.

Wuthering Heights’ closing lines are amongst the most beautiful ever composed. The novel focuses on the tumultuous and vengeance focused relationship between two intensely disturbed people, Cathy and Heathcliff. Amongst the most striking aspects of the novel is the descriptions of the harsh and windy moors of Yorkshire. At the close of the novel, both Cathy and Heathcliff are dead, as is Edgar Linton, who was cruelly caught up in their destruction. These closing lines suggest a sense of calm; the moths fluttering through the ‘soft breeze’, and the ‘sleepers’ resting in the earth conclude that they are at peace. The speaker is wishful, however, in trying to understand how anybody could imagine an unquiet slumber within this beautiful, serene setting. Given the lives they led, in many ways it is impossible to imagine a peaceful slumber for these characters. Most importantly, the moors are finally at peace, only leaving a soft breeze.

2. Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

[Laura] Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.

‘Goblin Market’ was Rossetti’s most successful poem within her lifetime, however one of the reasons it has stayed within the critical eye is because of its complex themes. On the outside, it encompasses sisterly affection and love; the importance of women sticking together in a male dominated world. On another level, the descriptions throughout are highly sexualised, even between the two ‘sisters’ Laura and Lizzie. The work was influenced by Rossetti’s time working in a Magdalen penitentiary for ‘fallen women’, where women helped other women to get their lives back in order. ‘Goblin Market’ is essentially the representation of a fallen woman, but its allusion to a deeply homoerotic and female love is vital to its central message.

The closing lines to Rossetti’s greatest work are empowering and filled with love. It concludes with Laura, the ‘fallen woman’ telling her children many years on of the importance of standing by one’s sister. For Rossetti, this last stanza was particularly poignant, as she encountered women every day who had been used and discarded by men. Ultimately her message is a feminist one; that women should rely upon each other for fulfillment and security.

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ighiguro

I found I was standing before acres of ploughed earth. There was a fence keeping me from stepping into the field, with two lines of barbed wire, and I could see how this fence and the cluster of three or four trees above me were the only things breaking the wind for miles. All alone the fence, especially along the lower line of wire, all sorts of rubbish had caught and tangled. It was like the debris you get on a sea-shore: the wind must have carried some of it for miles and miles before finally coming up against these trees and these two lines of wire. Up in the branches of the trees, too, I could see, flapping about, torn plastic sheeting and bits of old carrier bags. That was the only time, as I stood there, looking at that strange rubbish, feeling the wind coming across those empty fields, that I started to imagine just a little fantasy thing, because this was Norfolk after all, and it was only a couple of weeks since I’d lost him. I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was no standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I’d see it was Tommy, and he’d wave, maybe even call. The fantasy never got beyond that – I didn’t let it – and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn’t sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is amongst the most powerful novels of modern times, and understandably so. Focusing on the fragility of life in an alternative version of the past, it is an often devastating representation. Ishiguro’s writing is one of the greatest aspects of the novel. The extract above is the final paragraph of Never Let Me Go. I tried to narrow it down and select only a few lines, but with this conclusion, the entire paragraph is needed. He sets up the scene as one that embodies grief and death. Cathy’s acceptance of the life she has to live is evident, and it is made doubly poignant by its long, winding sentences.

4. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

But he had already jerked straight round, stared, glared again, and seen but the quiet day. With the stroke of the loss I was so proud of he uttered the cry of a creature hurled over an abyss, and the grasp with which I recovered him might have been that of catching him in his fall. I caught him, yes, I held him– it may be imagined with what a passion; but at the end of a minute I began to feel what it truly was that I held. We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.

The Turn of the Screw is the pinnacle of Victorian ghost stories. Set in the English countryside, a Governess goes to work with two seemingly adorable orphaned children in their uncle’s country estate. However almost immediately, strange things begin to happen, and the children are at the centre of these proceedings. As the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly uncanny, as the Governess starts to become hysterical. The question starts to emerge, has she lost her mind, or is the house actually haunted? In many ways, the novel is left without a concrete conclusion, but is left to the reader to decide what happens. The closing lines above entail the Governess’s attempts to rid Miles of the ghost that is plaguing him. It ends on the ambiguous note that, in this struggle, Miles, the child, has died. It is one of the most chilling endings in literature, leaving the reader to fill in what is not told. This is just as chillingly depicted in the famous ghost movie adaptation The Innocents from 1961, starring Deborah Kerr as the Governess.

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Abortion: Is propaganda being used in Irish schools?

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Photo source: theirondaisywrites.wordpress.com

Abortion has always been a contentious issue, and there is still a debate raging between three sides to this day: pro-choice, pro-life, and then those in the middle, who are unsure what to think. Debating is of course a good thing, and encourages people to think about situations differently, however the abortion one has always been dangerous, because of the possibility of leanings towards propaganda. This was epitomised by an Irish Times investigation into what exactly children are learning about abortion in schools in Ireland.

The results are quite astonishing. Across this country, various organisations go into schools to explain abortion to children. The Irish Times spoke to a woman who claimed that she and her classmates had been told stories about women who got abortions. All of these stories ended in misery and damnation for the woman involved. Even more chilling is the description that was offered to children of a secondary school in Tallaght, Dublin. They were shown a video clip of Dr. Tony Levatino explaining how the limbs, organs and brain of the foetus are removed after the abortion. The evidence, as outlined in The Irish Times piece, just keeps mounting. Children are being offered a pro-life view on abortion in schools across this country.

And then, with shock, I realised that I too had been a victim of this pro-life message in school. I had completely forgotten about the experience until reading The Irish Times piece.

I attended a Catholic ethos secondary school. The intention of my secondary school was that it catered for people of all kinds of backgrounds and religions, however it was clearly predominantly Catholic in its outlook. My school was by no means a bad school, and I always received a fair and balanced education on matters such as sexual health and morality.

On the downside, as a Catholic school, and as a ‘Catholic’ student, I was compelled to take part in various religious activities. When I was a teenager, I decided that I was going to disassociate myself from the Catholic religion, but because I was registered as a Catholic, and had been baptised, I was considered to be within that religion by my school. One of these activities was going to a religious based event with the rest of my year group when I was about sixteen or seventeen.

My main recollection is that there was a lot of music, and there were inspirational words as well. We were privileged enough to hear the experiences of a recovering alcoholic that day. And then the priest who had organised the event stood up. He too was full of wise words on various things, and was a compelling public speaker. But then he moved on to his abortion speech.

I won’t repeat in detail the description that we were given of abortion; I don’t even remember the complete story myself. But I do remember feeling horrified, and petrified, and repulsed at the story of how a baby survived being aborted, and grew up to live with the scars for the rest of her life. She had been found in the bin of the hospital. This was, of course, presented as divine intervention, rather than poor practice on the part of the medical professional who carried out the procedure. I have no proof or evidence that this story was a true one, other than that priest’s word.

We were only a large group of frightened children, really. I remember how affected we all were, as we listened to his story. People were terrified. And that was our lesson – if you get an abortion, you are committing an atrocity equal to murder.

Looking back, I believe that it is shocking that such a graphic story was told to a group of teenagers. I wonder why parents didn’t react, or complain to the school. I questioned this even more when I learned that this same speech had been given to both of my sisters in the years gone by, who had also gone through that school.

As the investigation by the Irish Times explains, the school is not the place for one-sided and frightening information to be relayed to students. Abortion should be breached and explained to students by teachers who neither condemn nor condone such a practice. Give the children the information, and let them decide for themselves what they think.

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The ‘Real Rape’ Myth

Rape-MythThis article originally appeared in the University Observer, Volume X on 30th October 2013.

With almost 90% of sexual assaults in Ireland being committed by someone known to the victim, Patrick Kelleher examines the origins of the ‘real rape’ myth and how society can overcome it

The ‘real rape’ myth has existed for a long time, and continues to pose problems for survivors of rape. The myth surrounds the idea that rape only happens in a dark, secluded place to a virtuous woman. In this image of rape, the man is always a faceless attacker who promptly disappears, leaving a woman to piece her life back together.

While this scenario certainly happens, it is not particularly common. In most cases, the attacker is known to the victim. According to a 2009 report by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI), 89% of the perpetrators of these violent acts were known to their victims.

This immediately casts the ‘real rape’ myth into doubt. Our perception of rape, and the circumstances in which it can happen, is flawed and this only adds to the ignorance surrounding the issue today.

Rape is defined as sex without consent. This definition doesn’t include ‘unless they were drunk’, ‘unless they didn’t specifically say no’ or ‘unless they were wearing revealing clothing’. Women who dress provocatively or get attacked on a night out seem to completely form the concept of what society believes rape is.

Why would survivors report an attack to the Gardaí if they are not sure if it was what they would deem ‘a rape case’ at all? Survivors are left feeling confused about their experience; the ‘real rape’ myth has taught them an entirely different concept of what rape is.

Rape remains one of the most under-reported crimes worldwide, and is notoriously hard to prove. Women and men alike have seemingly little reason to report these crimes, as the conviction rate is abysmally low, and a trial would leave them open to the possiblity of being cross-examined as if they were the one who had committed the crime.

According to statistics released in 2012 by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC), of 322 cases where the reporting status was known, 115 were reported to the Gardaí, of which only 3 were tried, all of whom either pleaded guilty or were convicted. While it is likely that most women don’t report these crimes because they are still learning to cope, statistics released by the DRCC show that those who knew their attacker were less likely to report the crime than those who didn’t.

The ‘real rape’ myth has fed into other areas of sexual life, namely in the belief that if a woman is dressed provocatively, she is ‘asking for it.’ This is a common thread amongst nightclub promoters. An advertisement for Alchemy nightclub caused controversy when it depicted a woman pulling down her underwear in what is presumably a nightclub setting, accompanied by the slogan: ‘If you’re not up for it, don’t cum.’ Perhaps more alarming was the ‘knickers for liquor’ promotion run by another Dublin venue, where if a woman gave her underwear into the bar, she would get a free shot.

Both imply that a woman who is drinking or wearing revealing clothing on a night out is an object waiting for a man to have sex with her, a belief as old and as threatening as misogyny itself. Promotions like these give little consideration to whether or not women are consenting to sexual activity, as if stepping inside a night club means agreeing to anything.

It is attitudes like these that have created the ‘rape culture’ we find ourselves in. While the western world has been sexually liberated, rape has filtered into the mainstream, but not in the way we might expect.

Nightclub promotions like that of Alchemy, and a more recent one for UCD’s Commerce and Economics Society, entitled ‘Rappers and Slappers’ portray a somewhat disturbing image. The ‘rape myth’ of a woman getting attacked down a dark alleyway remains alive and well. People still do not realise how misogynist advertising can help to create an entirely different rape myth; that it is not rape when it happens in a party environment.

This attitude was most recently expressed in the ‘Slane Girl’ controversy that emerged from viral photographs of a young man and woman engaged in a public sexual act at Eminem’s summer Slane concert.

Little is known about the finer details of the case, but what was evident was the incredibly alarming reaction represented by men, and even more so women, to the case. The young woman was dismissed as a ‘slut’ and a ‘whore’ by masses of Twitter crowds, the man was heralded as a ‘legend’ and a ‘hero.’

While the ‘Slane Girl’ controversy was more than likely not a case of rape, it represented a key concept to sexual attitudes in Ireland. The reality is that if this had been a rape case, the reaction may not have been that different. The woman would still be seen as a slut who had worn revealing clothing, and had therefore walked into a trap. Essentially, the woman ‘asked for it’, and therefore must face the consequences.

It is time we acknowledged the rape myth, and looked at it in its wider context. Rape can happen to anybody, and can be done by anybody; not just women who are walking home alone.

As a society we must stop shaming women who wear revealing clothing or who drink alcohol as being sluts who brought it on themselves. We need to examine rape with greater clarity, and develop compassion for survivors.

To correctly identify the Irish problem surrounding the rape myth, everybody needs to look at their own perception of rape and examine why they think in the way they do. In this way we can work to overcome the devastating effects rape has on the lives of victims.

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – Review

Never_Let_Me_GoLife has been getting in the way of a lot of things recently for me. One of those things has been reading, which has further been discouraging me from writing. After all, my blogs are more or less based around books, and ideas I’ve gotten from books. As I’ve been doing less of this than is normal (especially considering the fact that I study English in college), ideas have been bouncing around, but not exactly getting anywhere.

I think that is why when I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go it had such a great impact on me. I was craving something to read; something that wouldn’t just be a normal book that would entertain and grip me – but something that would envelope me inside its world and let me wallow in it.

Never Let Me Go was exactly what I needed. Set in what at first appears to be a 1990s British boarding school, the novel takes a twisted turn as we realise that there is something much more sinister at play here. This is not a normal boarding school. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are not normal children, and as they progress into adulthood we become all the more aware of the futility of their lives.

The novel isn’t just a sad novel; nor are these people just characters. It’s not just anything. Instead, it succeeds in being everything from every genre, with the beauty of some of the most complex characters I have ever read in literature.

What makes Never Let Me Go particularly devastating is the harsh reality of growing up that we see for Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. With each passing day and moment, they lose a shred of their innocence. Life reveals itself as a cruel, passionless and empty beast, ready to strike at any time.

This is what made this novel so emotional for me; as a coming-of-age story, it highlights the sadness of growing up. As I have gotten older, I have realised that not everything is perfect. While I like to have an idealistic notion of my future, what Never Let Me Go is so successful in achieving is the concept of loss, in all of its forms. Human loss, loss of innocence and a gradual ebb of the beauty of life all pervade in this novel. It is in this that Ishiguro is most successful – in his incredibly perceptive observation that no matter who you are, or what your life is about, you will have to face loss at some point.

Ishiguro’s novel is also one of immense beauty; his writing is startling, and leaves the reader feeling breathless and terrified for the characters that we come to love. One of the most exhilarating aspects of the novel is his constant use of the imagery of people locked in embrace, echoing the title in all of its immensity. At the novel’s most emotionally heightened moments, people embrace as tightly as they can – and the song from the fictional Judy Bridgewater Never let me go, oh baby, baby never let me go echoes in our minds.

The significance of the title is something rare to encounter in a novel like this. However reading Never Let Me Go, the title is something that constantly rang in my head, sometimes accompanied by a vision of Kathy and Tommy locked in an iron embrace in a field, and sometimes with the soft, crooning voice I can imagine Judy Bridgewater would have had, as she begged her baby to never let her go.

Ishiguro’s novel can be described as a terrible beauty. Laced with pessimism, there are moments of great clarity and exhilarating, sweeping beauty. I suppose the best way to sum up Never Let Me Go is that it makes you feel Kathy and Tommy’s embrace, as they grip each other more tightly than anyone can ever be gripped. It is one of the finest and most memorable novels I have ever read, and I know that it will stick with me forever – well into old age – and I’ll remember it constantly, and occasionally hear that line of baby, baby, never let me go echoing down the hallway.

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The X Factor: Time to Say Goodbye?

the x factorThe X Factor UK is soon to grace our screens again. Please, children, calm down. I know that the excitement is difficult to cope with. After all, there’s nothing better than watching the same exploitative, utterly tired format year in year out. The show will be returning this weekend with what will no doubt be many exciting twists designed to destroy the lives of countless young hopefuls who will never make it in the music industry.

The format has been getting old now for a while. The moment Simon Cowell abandoned it for his USA version of the show, the whole thing went downhill. Admittedly, the show did have an ability to entertain its viewers at one point. Entertain is the operative word – despite a couple of occasionally talented singers, most are moulded into the clone required by the record labels straight after their first audition shows at least a little bit of sex appeal. For many, there is also the requirement to be able to hold a note, but if the sex appeal is really great, it can be done without. Or if you’re Jedward. Because nobody can account for that. Nobody.

Last year, it possibly descended to even further depths than it ever has before. For the first time ever, I have no idea who won. No, I won’t Google it – I just don’t even care. I don’t remember there being anything interesting about last year’s robot. I do recall that he had tattoos. Is that right? Yes, the slightly edgy pop-punk look was in last year.

What I find perhaps most frustrating about the X Factor is the twists. I’m sure many of you who have had the misfortune of being stuck at home on a Saturday night have experienced this. Every year, somebody whips some ludicrous new twist out of the bag. A random booming voice shouts something along the lines of: “AND WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, THE X FACTOR’S MOST SHOCKING MOMENT EVER!!!!!!!” And then the ads come on. After a few violins have been murdered and we’ve been thrown a competition for winning a holiday, or a car – or something else vaguely middle class or suburban, we find out that the twist isn’t really that shocking at all.

This year’s twist (and look away now if you don’t want spoilers) involves six chairs. Yes, chairs! And no – they’re not for the judges. I shiver with anticipation – they’re for the contestants who get to go to the Judges’ Houses. In the words of Louis Walsh:

‘There was a lot of drama, a lot of tears, a lot of tension, but it’s fantastic for the show. We didn’t know it was going to be as emotional, and as draining, and as real as this. It’s like the gladiators in Rome. Getting them to sing, and picking them, and then saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got somebody better – go.’

Of course I can see the comparison between X Factor candidates and the gladiators in Rome. When you get kicked out of the X Factor, you go home and enter Big Brother. When you lose as a gladiator in Rome, you die. Perhaps a slightly skewed comparison there, Louis, and if proves just how important you consider the X Factor. You know what? Losing the X Factor isn’t the end of the world. It doesn’t mean your life has ended dramatically. Options are limitless, and to be honest, winning the X Factor really only guarantees you a Christmas number 1 and a token album released by Simon Cowell a year later, which will flop – because everyone is already bored of you, and has moved on to the next big thing.

On that note, I think it is time we said goodbye to the X Factor. Farewell, Louis Walsh and your insistent repetition of “It’s a shame, cause you look like a popstar!” It’s time we waved goodbye to this terribly tired, wasted formula, and accepted the basic facts. The X Factor has churned out few good musicians. With a couple of minor exceptions to the rule, there is little longevity in the careers of X Factor winners. So let’s kiss goodbye now, while we still can, and give these aspiring musicians a proper chance at success.

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Jane Eyre: An Early Feminist or Weak-Willed Victim?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of the most famous novels in print today. It is studied across schools and universities around the world, and has had countless film adaptations made of it. Most people seem to think of Jane Eyre as being somewhere in the realm of romance; they see it as a beautiful story of love. The film adaptations made to date have exemplified this view.

This is based on a misconception. In reality, the story of Jane Eyre is one filled with suffering, hatred, misogyny and sexism. Ultimately, it is about the dark impulses of a manipulative and damaged man, and the place of a nineteenth century woman in this world.

From the opening chapter, we are presented with a daring, brave and bold character; Jane Eyre has a fiery temper and an abhorrence of all that is unjust. The opening descriptions of the Red Room are vivid, and Bronte expertly captures the terrible childhood fear of isolation and the supernatural. The tone is set for a novel that is rife with heart-break and marred by the challenges of coming-of-age.

Jane’s experiences in Lowood are some of the most heart wrenching of the novel. She is thrown from utter neglect with the Reeds to outright abuse; It is in this school that Jane’s first experiences of true sadness and peril emerge, with the death of her friend Helen from consumption. This marks a change in Jane’s outlook. Helen affected her greatly by her attitude towards those who treated her badly. Despite her early devastating experience, she becomes a young woman of strength and character, and leaves Lowood behind to create a life for herself.

It is not until Jane takes on the role of governess for the daughter of the elusive Mr. Rochester that the darkness of the novel truly emerges. Her relationship with Rochester is the most interesting aspect of the novel. From her earliest encounters with him, he comes across as withdrawn, and not completely trustworthy. Yet Jane – our wonderful heroine who we had all grown to love – manages to fall in love with him. In a moment, she seems to dismiss her intelligence and strong-willed nature. She loses a part of herself, and she will never be the same again.

It is clear that Rochester does love Jane, but what underpins his love is an obsession with control. He controls his ‘mad’ wife by keeping her locked in the attic, away from sight, determined not to let Jane know of her existence. We must ask the question, what is her story? How did she come to be married to Mr. Rochester, and locked away in the attic of their home? These questions, for the most part, go unanswered. Nobody seems to seek knowledge on why she has gone mad. Was she driven to this extreme state of despair by her evidently deranged husband, or was the imbalance always there?

Perhaps Rochester’s wife, like Jane, was pulled into his world through some deep fascination with the idea of a damaged and twisted man. Indeed, this fascination characterises many novels in the eternal obsession of women with the bad guy.

It is no secret that throughout the many years of English Literature, the dark and frightening men are the most popular with women. This can be seen in Charlotte’s sister Emily Bronte’s passionate and ultimately disturbing novel Wuthering Heights, in which the evil and disturbed Heathcliff became a sex symbol for countless women across the world. This happened despite his completely neurotic obsession with vengeance.

In more recent times, this obsession has been called the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. Women seem to be drawn into the mind of a damaged man. Perhaps the reasoning for this lies in their nurturing streak, although this seems unlikely. Perhaps the real reason is much darker, and encompasses the twisted allure that can be attributed to characters like Rochester, Heathcliff and Christian Gray.

I believe that this is where Jane’s love for Rochester lies. She has some kind of a dark impulse to discover what it is about this man that seems so damaged. In many ways, Jane has no choice but to fall in love with him. Yet this does not take away from the disappointment we can feel as readers when she does so.

Jane’s coming-of-age arc is advanced when she leaves Rochester upon the discovery that he is married. In this moment, she learns the devastating lesson that sometimes, love is not enough.

Yet Bronte reduces Jane back to her childhood, as she encounters poverty and the supernatural in her time without Rochester. This alerts the reader to the fact that Jane has yet to complete her coming-of-age arc. Something must happen to conclude the snippet of her life journey that we have been presented with. Unfortunately, this takes the shape of her return to Rochester, and what will most likely be a life of dissatisfaction.

Jane has often been dubbed an early feminist – a torch to be held aloft in an era of misogyny and male-dominance. And while her strength and desire for respect certainly show traits of an early feminist, her acceptance of Rochester sends out a very clear, and very sad message to all readers of this novel; Jane could not overcome her circumstances. She could not thrive independently, because a nineteenth century woman of her social stature could not be in a position to do so.

Rather than being the sweeping romance embedded in the heads of most readers, Jane Eyre tells the story of a woman who is defeated and abused, and ultimately accepts her position as a sub-standard human being.

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The First Draft Syndrome

once upon a timeIf you’ve ever made any kind of attempt at creative writing, you probably know the infamous first draft syndrome. Most writers will suffer from it at some point, and it usually comes after they’ve written anything – whether that be a short story, a novel a poem or anything else.

I have been suffering from the first draft syndrome for what feels like months. I wrote a ‘novel’ (I put it in inverted commas because of how ridiculous the adjective sounds for what I wrote) last November for National Novel Writing Month, with some kind of flimsy hope that something would emerge from it.

But dreams are dreams, and unfortunately rarely spring to life. I read the manuscript, felt a little bit dizzy at all the work that had to be done, and threw it under my bed.

I didn’t mean to forget about it. I told myself that I’d come back to it soon, but I needed to have a good long think about where the hell to start. Editing it seemed to be such a momentous task, I didn’t even know where to start or how to do it.

However weeks quickly turned into months, in that little way of theirs, and before I knew it, six months had gone by since I wrote the manuscript.

Occasionally, I remembered it, and considered looking at it. But even reading the first page terrified me. Despite this, last night, I decided to give editing it a go. And you know what I discovered? That the first draft syndrome really isn’t all that hard to overcome. It requires the very simple act of editing – something which may seem terrifying, but is really not that hard at all.

If you feel that you may be suffering from the first draft syndrome, then pull out that novel, short story or poem. Tell yourself sternly that you will edit it, and don’t worry about how bad it is at the moment.

Start editing it by just reading it. You have words – that’s a start. Now you just need to rephrase, rewrite and reorganise almost everything you’ve written. You can finally etch away those sentences that make you recoil in horror – the ones that you read months ago but ignored, simply because of how bad they were – and start again.

If you’re doubting your ability, look at what you’ve achieved. If you managed to write a first draft of anything, that should send out one clear message: you can write. Editing, you will discover, is in many ways a different skill to writing. It requires the same perseverance and blind determination, but it also requires ruthlessness and critical thinking. Be harsh with yourself, just not so harsh that you’re likely to throw the manuscript in the bin and cry in bed for a week.

If you’re editing your first draft on a computer, make sure to save it as a separate file, rather than saving over the original. This way, at least you’ll know that when you edit something, you still have the old version.

Overcoming the first draft syndrome is a difficult thing to do, but when you finally succeed in doing it, you will take on the position of a noble leader – a fighter – a writer. And when you’re fit to tear your hair out at four o’clock in the morning because you just can’t get chapter seven to work, then keep thinking of that word – writer – and think about how badly you want to be able to call yourself one.