In my late-twenties, as a carer and parent to three young children, I began setting myself physical challenges for two reasons. 1. To get out of the house. 2. For my own headspace.
I abseiled, ran a half-marathon and climbed a couple of mountains. Lately I completed a project about mountains, so I have been thinking about this a lot, and obviously the awful fire at Slieve Donard has made me recall my climb.
Even though all these challenges pushed me out of my comfort zone, especially being a very non-sporty person, they taught me so much.
At 31 I had signed up to take part in a full marathon when baby number four came along. I wanted to keep up with the training at least and keep my friends company, but I was too sick. I had to put it off until after she was born.
The next May bank holiday, when Martha was six months old, I completed it, but the day after the run I knew I never wanted to push myself like that again. I had this sense that I had achieved everything outdoorsy that I wanted to – except I still have never been white water rafting! – and after my pregnancies, and with a bad back and creaky knees, I thought I should hang up the trainers.
I needed a new challenge though, so the day after the Belfast Marathon I went back to an idea that had always flitted through my mind: I might like to write a book. Becoming a writer was my childhood dream. So I plotted a novel and got cracking.
That autumn I went to all the workshops and took all the creative writing courses I could find locally, not so locally and online. I immersed myself totally in learning, reading and writing for years. Nine years on I am still here at the desk. Still not bored. Perhaps because there are so many branches of writing it feels impossible to complete every level, like beating some kind of literary Bowser.
Writing still excites me. Reading excites me. Ideas excite me. When life is mundane – albeit wonderful, blessed but still mundane; especially during lockdowns – getting lost in a story is one answer. Doing the work is the other answer.
I get excited about returning to unpolished manuscripts and revisiting characters that I want to pinch the cheeks of. I know other writers will understand the depth of feelings we have for our imaginary friends.
At the start of 2021 I had no idea that my writing was going to go in a different direction, which it has; now I am learning a new skill. I am also returning to student life in the autumn. Another thing I didn’t know would happen when I was making my New Year’s resolutions.
The unpredictability of ‘being a writer’ is part of what I adore about it. The growing amounts of admin, eh, not so much.
I have recently been given a course bursary from the Irish Writers Centre and look forward to selecting a course from the summer programme. As yet, I have no idea what that will be.
My children are getting older, thinking about which career paths they might want to take. I keep telling them to pick something they will love doing. I know that had I chosen English Lit at eighteen I would not have taken this long, strange route to get here. Although life in between has granted me bottomless tanks of fuel for my stories.
When I was an introverted little kid I would never have believed that public speaking would become part of my future job, or that I would have ended up enjoying it. In school I joined drama clubs but hid in the chorus. Now I’m done with asking myself if I’m happy with how things are going for me because I can be pretty negative and hard on myself.
Now I check in with young Kelly instead and ask her. She’s kinder, doesn’t care about any of the insecurities that seem important to me these days. She thinks it’s pretty amazing that I am the author of six published books, and that I didn’t give up. She also thinks it’s great that I give up where it counts. Young Kelly is encouraged by the awesome network of support I finally have around me.
Six books in nine years might seem like a lot to some; I have been prolific, which is a good thing – for me. I know of people who don’t trust prolific writers and I say that’s their problem. I don’t judge anyone who brings out, say, one book every decade.
My first short story collection was written over my first four years of writing. My second, EVERYBODY’S HAPPY, over the following four. Collections do take time, I’ll admit that.
The imminent release of Everybody’s Happy – that book no. 6 I’ve been banging on about – feels like a little birthday present to my writing journey.
I have nothing planned for this Friday, 7 May. No launch. However I will be releasing YouTube videos of me reading from the collection.
It is my most personal of works so far and I am hugely thankful to the Arts Council of NI for its support with a SIAP award so I could complete Everybody’s Happy.
Available to buy now in paperback.
Available to pre-order for kindle. (99p for a limited time)
If you are in the USA, you can enter a Goodreads giveaway and possibly win a copy. Good luck!
More about EVERYBODY’S HAPPY:
Eight short stories about art, shadows and self.
Creighton’s second short story collection introduces us to a gallery owner who worries her husband will leave her for a doppelgänger; an artist whose creativity is blocked by intense fear on a retreat; a would-be writer who opens a PO Box to gather other people’s letters to God; two mothers with guilty secrets; a young student contemplating suing a lecturer for boring her into deep slumber; a geologist travelling the earth to find herself; and a woman who flies home to bury her dead uncle, only to end up in a compromising situation.
Creighton blends satire with the unsettling. Tenderness with humour.
If you do happen to read it and enjoy, please let me know.
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