Become a Writer Today

Writing a Collection of Personal Essays With Irish Times Journalist Patrick Freyne

June 24, 2021 Bryan Collins Season 2
Become a Writer Today
Writing a Collection of Personal Essays With Irish Times Journalist Patrick Freyne
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Become a Writer Today
Writing a Collection of Personal Essays With Irish Times Journalist Patrick Freyne
Jun 24, 2021 Season 2
Bryan Collins

I recently read a collection of personal essays by my guest today, the Irish Times journalist Patrick Freyne. It’s called OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea.

 In the book, Patrick reflects on the jobs he’s had, his time in a band, and a friend who unexpectedly passed away. He didn’t necessarily set out to write a book, but one of his personal essays gained traction with a popular writing publication in Ireland.

I had the chance to catch up with Patrick and ask him about his writing process and how he put together a collection of personal essays.

I started by asking Patrick all about this book, OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How Patrick relied on his memory when writing the essays
  • Patrick explains his writing process
  • Patrick's love of short stories
  • Having a criteria for what goes in the book
  • How Patrick promoted the book

Resources:

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/becomeawritertoday)

Show Notes Transcript

I recently read a collection of personal essays by my guest today, the Irish Times journalist Patrick Freyne. It’s called OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea.

 In the book, Patrick reflects on the jobs he’s had, his time in a band, and a friend who unexpectedly passed away. He didn’t necessarily set out to write a book, but one of his personal essays gained traction with a popular writing publication in Ireland.

I had the chance to catch up with Patrick and ask him about his writing process and how he put together a collection of personal essays.

I started by asking Patrick all about this book, OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How Patrick relied on his memory when writing the essays
  • Patrick explains his writing process
  • Patrick's love of short stories
  • Having a criteria for what goes in the book
  • How Patrick promoted the book

Resources:

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/becomeawritertoday)

Patrick: I kind of wrote essays because I wanted to have a mix of serious and funny so there are straightforwardly comic essays in the book and then there are things that deal with serious subjects in a comic way.

Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: Do you write personal essays or would you like to write one? Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins, and welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast. 

So, a couple of years ago, I spent a lot of time writing short stories. I didn’t make that much progress with my short stories because I didn’t send them to anyone and I wasn’t really getting feedback on my work. I got a bit frustrated with the whole process and I took a series of writing classes and I was introduced to the art of the personal essay. In the writing classes, our instructor, he was a guy from Texas, he got us three personal essays by the likes of Olivia Laing, Clive James, David Sedaris, and Joan Didion and I was captivated by the genre because personal essays struck me as something that are entertaining and informative and maybe something that I could try. 

So, I put aside the short stories and I started writing personal essays about topics like having kids early, about jobs that didn’t work out, and also about my time as a care worker. Now, I didn’t publish all of these personal essays but this got me into non-fiction writing and I was able to use elements from these stories later on in some of my books and, actually, at the time of recording this podcast interview, editing a book about my experiences as a young dad so some of the essays I wrote years ago, I was able to dig back up and edit and re-work for this particular book. So I still really love reading non-fiction personal essays by people like Joan Didion and it’s also a genre that fascinates me. 

If you write a lot of non-fiction, let’s say you’re a freelance journalist or you’re a copywriter or a content marketer or you’re publishing self-help-type articles, I’d encourage you to look at the personal essay as another form of creative expression. Pick a single topic that really interests you, it could be an experience in childhood, it could be, you know, a job, or it could be a topic like parenting, for example, which is something that I’ve written about, and go a little bit deeper. 

You know, rather than writing a 700- or 800-word article with a snappy headline, go for several thousand words. You’re not going to be able to publish all of that online but you might be able to use some of it. If you have a newsletter on a platform like Substack, you could send it to readers of your newsletter and you could also submit your personal essay to writing competitions and also to writing journals as well. What’s more, when you have a collection of personal essays or even when you have one personal essay that you feel works, who knows, it might turn into a nonfiction book or it might turn into another project. 

And it’s also good because if you don’t spend a lot of time writing fiction, you still get to feel like you’re doing something creative without necessarily writing for something that’s going to pay the bills. So, personal essay writing is still a genre that I really recommend and Phillip Lopate has a great book, a great collection of personal essays from over time that I’d encourage you to check out if you want to explore the genre a bit more.

Now, with that said, I recently read a collection of personal essays by the Irish Times journalist Patrick Freyne. It’s called OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea, and in this particular collection, Patrick reflects on some of the jobs he’s had throughout his career, his time in a band, and a friend who unexpectedly passed away. He didn’t necessarily set out to write a book, but one of his personal essays gained a bit of traction with a popular writing publication in Ireland. I recently had the chance to catch up with Patrick about his writing process and also about how he decided — or how he put together a collection of personal essays. But I started by asking Patrick all about this book, OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea.

Patrick: So, I’ve kind of been thinking for years about writing essays. When I thought about it first, it had been kind of in the light of writers like Clive James and David Sedaris and I also loved Nora Ephron, people who kind of had a bit of humor in their writing. And in more recent years, I really loved the writing of people like Emily Pine and Sinéad Gleeson and Deborah Levy and Olivia Laing, people who are kind of deeper kind of investigations of their experiences and lives so I think I ended up writing a kind of book that was in between the two to some degree and I think one of the things that helped this book be relatively painless was that I’ve been writing for years for the paper and for other things but I’ve always been writing kind of reportage about other people or columns about culture and television and I’ve never actually written about myself so I think I had a lot of stuff backed up, right?
 
So, as soon as I started writing, and I started — the first essay I wrote was the one about my mental health, “Brain Fever,” which is dealing with serious enough kind of stuff. I’d started with that essay and then the second essay I wrote was the one about Bremen which isn’t that serious, it’s kind of — it’s a picaresque romp, really, about three young fellows with no common sense and I think the tone of the collection is there between those two essays and, after that, I kind of realized I quite enjoyed essays as — this is going to sound terrible but a relatively formless, low-pressure way of just writing about stuff you’re interested in and I think years of structuring articles meant that I don’t worry too much about structure, the structure tends to embed itself as I’m writing.

Usually, I just follow my curiosity and one part, the fact I hadn’t really investigated a lot of these, a lot of it comes from memory and, you know, I think about a story from my youth and I’d write stuff down and then you’d ask yourself the question, “But why was he there that day?” and that would trigger another memory so you realize that there’s — once you start, and I think a lot of writers, when they’re beginning, don’t really realize that the process of writing generates more writing. So, waiting sometimes to have all of the ideas is just pointless procrastination because if you’ve got a few ideas in your notebook and you plow into them, they will trigger other bits and other memories and other notions.

Bryan: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. But so many essays are written with dialogue, almost like it’s a short story or a montage and I know you interject your recollections looking back, so did you have diaries or journals that you were able to read back on or was it all from memory?

Patrick: No, it was all memory. And there’s a few things. There’s a lot of things to say about that. Like, firstly, the conversations, I remembered conversations, like I wasn’t walking around as a 10-year-old with a Dictaphone and that’s — that is kind of a concession, a trope of the memoir, like lots of memoirs — I would consider that the height of unethical behavior if I did it in a magazine article, for example, but I think there’s a certain amount of “This is how I remembered it.” 

The second thing about memory is I was actually kind of amazed — a lot of people have asked me how I remembered so much. I actually think if you start down the process of writing down things you recall, actually writing it down triggers more stuff. You go, “Okay, that reminds me that I was there that weekend because my mom was away with…” and all this other stuff comes out and whole other passages for your essay will kind of, if you’re writing memoir, will kind of come out of that. And then the third thing to say about memory is I showed it to everyone, all the people I’m close to who were kind of in the essays —

Bryan: That must have been a bit difficult.

Patrick: It was surprisingly okay but the fascinating thing was actually more in how people remember things differently. So there was no big, “I can’t believe you said that,” and stuff. There was more, “No, no, no, I wasn’t there that day.” Really? But you’re in my head and you realize the fallibility of memory too and I write about that in the essays. You know, like even strange things like when I — I have an essay about driving towards the end of the book and it’s — because as both a journalist and when I was a musician and I write about being in bands in the book, when I was a musician, there’s a lot of driving, I drive around —

Bryan: Is this the book about the liminal spaces?

Patrick: Yeah —

Bryan: Or the essay — Yeah.

Patrick: Yeah, so — and that essay is like a number of vignettes and the epilogue of that essay is about a character actually when I was 13 and I had written that essay in entirety, the book was almost entirely written and one day I was out for a walk and I remembered I was in a car crash and it had completely — like in this essay about driving, it had completely escaped my memory and it’s just bizarre how certain things in your mind get submerged and other things rise to the top and all it takes then sometimes — then often what happened was our family would tell me I got my details slightly wrong and usually that made it better, like I treated it a little like journals that I fact check myself. Sometimes, you know, they never ruined a good story. They always added bits that would matter, that I kind of went, “Really?” I go, “Okay, we’ll put that in.” Oh, and the other thing was just weird things you don’t notice about your own life.
 
My friend, Corncrake, who turns up in a number of the essays, the only thing he said he’d like changed was he goes, “You have me cursing. I never curse,” and I went, “Really?” and I realized that this guy I’d been best friends with for years never curses and I had him saying probably, can I say — I had him saying the f word at one point and he said, “I probably said feck,” and I was like, “Okay, wow.” So like there’s minefields when you get into memoir writing. But I was very pleased that most — like when I showed it to people, for the most part, they were completely fine with what I was putting in there.

Bryan: Yeah. You kind of remind me of David Carr’s The Night of the Gun when he spent years, you know, as an alcoholic and a drug addict so he couldn’t remember anything but he went back and interviewed people like a journalist to figure out what happened ’cause he had a black hole where all those experiences happened. So, you wrote “Brain Fever” as an essay for the Dublin Review and, after that, did you decide, “You know what, I’m gonna turn this into something more,” or did someone approach you and say that we think there’s more here?

Patrick: I’d sent it — Brendan Barrington had asked, who is the editor of the Dublin Review and works as an editor for Penguin, asked me did I have anything and I sent him “Brain Fever” and he liked it and wanted it in Dublin Review and he said, “Send me other — anything else you have,” and I sent him that Bremen essay which gigantic, the second, it’s an early essay in the book and he also liked that and it’s quite a different tone of essay and I just kind of realized then that I was quite enjoying — like I’ve been writing short stories and I realized I quite enjoyed doing essays as kind of almost like palate cleansers because it’s a very different process to writing a short story and I found that once I had the nugget of either a story from my memory or an idea or a theme that I was really interested in, I could generate an essay from it. 

Not all of them made the book, like not all of them were good, but I enjoyed the process of doing that and, at a certain point, I was just sending them to Brendan and, at a certain point, I’d say I had two-thirds of what’s in the book written, he said, “I think there’s a book in this and would you like to kind of do one?” and I said yes and, at that point then, I started thinking of it as a book and I hadn’t really before that. 

There was thematic stuff that was kind of coming up in all of the essays and that was kind of recurring through it but, at that point, I kind of start sequencing it like an album, you know, I started — when I was in bands, one of my favorite bits was trying to kind of put the album tracks and we released a number of albums and one of my favorite things was at the end deciding what was going to be on the album, what order it was going to be in, and also that would, I was in bands that would trigger ideas for songs, like we need a slow sound here or we need a heavy sound here or we need like a really great thing to end on. And I started writing the remainder of the book to kind of fill in gaps in that process, you know?
 
I realized that I had written an essay about the army and my dad who was an army man and I realized, okay, I want to write an essay about my mom and her family to kind of — so I have something about my dad, something about my mom. I kind of wrote essays because I wanted to have a mix of serious and funny so there are straightforwardly comic essays in the book and then there are things that deal with serious subjects in a comic way and there are things that deal with serious subjects in a serious way and there are essays that blend the two tones. I quite enjoyed — I think the book does read as a kind of coherent read and I think a lot of that has to do with placement of essays, which is the fun bit after you’ve done your writing and you’re just deciding, you know —

Bryan: Yeah, there’s a nice arc, particularly at the end, I don’t want to spoil it for people. So you’re, you know, a journalist for the Irish Times, you interview people and write about television and other things reportage, so I used to be a journalist as well but not a very good one, but I’m curious, did you find it different or difficult to switch from journalism to writing something that’s a bit more personal? 

Patrick: For the reason I said earlier, I don’t think it was like — it was a different, definitely a very different thing but I think because I hadn’t written about myself before, there was a lot of stuff waiting to be written, like I think I processed a lot of things into kind of story shape in my head anyway. I find it quite liberating, like so there’s a lot of scope to do a lot of different kinds of writing in my day job, but I think it kind of opened the door to bringing myself into things more which, you know, sometimes is an intrusion, you know? If you’re writing a report about vulnerable people or, you know, you shouldn’t put yourself in the story unless it assists the story but there’s — I started to see more of a continuum between different forms of writing, you know? Like when you pick up collections by Joan Didion and you realize that half of this amazing stuff turned up in magazine articles, you know? You start realizing the scope. People have a lot of tolerance for interesting writing in a newspaper.

Bryan: Yeah, that’s a good point. And what about the point of view in your essays, because it seems like a lot of non-fiction these days is written prescriptively where the author offers some advice to the reader whereas yours kind of felt more introspective.

Patrick: I think that there’s embedded advice, like I don’t — I think it’s implied. I think the book, if it’s — so one of the — like the kind of rule of thumb that stuff had to be helpful or entertaining and I think that the first version I wrote of “Brain Fever,” I think I was too close to some of the mental health issues at the time that I was writing about when I wrote it very early on before I showed it to Brendan and I think it was kind of horrible and I think it was unhelpful for people and I feel that one of the purposes of writing about personal difficult things, one of the reasons it’s good is that it helps people feel like they’re not alone and I think, to some degree, like the essays in the book do that. I don’t think I give advice because I don’t think I have any particular wisdom to give but I think that there is a celebration of — it’s called OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea because I realized that, to some degree, a lot of the stupid stuff I did when I was younger wasn’t stupid, you know? Being creative in bands and radio stations, every kid should get the opportunity to do that stuff and I think, at the moment, only certain privileged kids get to do that stuff.

Bryan: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, and I was working with an editor recently on a parenting book that I’m writing and she was saying, for this particular genre, you need to give some takeaways or tips for the reader that bring the personal story home a bit more.

Patrick: Yeah. I avoided — like one of the things in my reportage that is similar to the essays is I tend not to — I tend to let people bring their own conclusions, draw their own conclusions and in the essays, I think I also let people draw their own conclusions. Like I think it’s clear where I stand with my essay on care work, I think it’s clear. I have an essay called “Care” about the time I spent as a care worker with disabled people, intellectually disabled people, and I thought about that work for years and I wrote — it’s probably one of the straightest essays in the book but I think it’s clear when you read that where I stand politically and where I stand on care work and where I stand on different things and, similarly, in the book I wrote — in the essay I wrote about not having kids, it’s called “Something Else,” which is something that I also wanted to explore, I think my opinions kind of come through on that. 

But I feel like — I think people are getting advice and opinions all the time now, like you can’t turn on the internet without a thousand opinions coming at you so I’m not sure it’s always instructive to kind of go, “Here’s where I stand.” I think if you read that book, you’ll get a strong sense of where I stand on things without really saying it.

Bryan: And for the actual writing process itself, did you work on it in the morning before you went into work or what way did you approach the essays?

Patrick: I took three months off work to — like I didn’t write at all in that period so I find I can’t write on days and actually do my day job so a lot of my non-journalistic writing is weekends and days off and holidays and —

Bryan: Is that because you’re writing a lot for work?

Patrick: Yeah, it is and it’s because you kind of activated those muscles. Other journalists manage very well. I find it very difficult. I think the — I was going to say I take the day job very seriously and I think my journalism is — like I write essays and short stories but I think the journalism is as important to me as that and if I’ve spent a day doing journalism — but I think that’s unfair to other journalists who write really good fiction and essays in their spare time around their work and everyone takes it seriously. I just find that we exercise those muscles and I find it too hard to go to something else in the evening so I do it on weekends. I write on weekends and I took three months off unpaid leave and I wrote very much nine to five for three months. And I wasn’t just working on this. I was writing short stories too —

Bryan: Okay.

Patrick: — back in early 2019.

Bryan: It sounds like you still want to write fiction as well.

Patrick: Yeah, I want to — like I’ve now — doing the book kind of opens up. I’ve been working on fiction for a few years, good few years, and this opened up the possibility that you can kind of do — if you’re a writer, you can do lots of different things and I don’t want to limit myself. I quite enjoy moving from one form to another and doing — it’s just kind of fun to use the craft to do very different things.

Bryan: Yeah. You can get burnt out or tired about writing in the same genre or about the same topic for a long time. So when you took the three months off work, was it a case of, “All right, I have to come up with all of these essays and build on ‘Brain Fever,’” or did you have an idea in your head and an outline based on what you were saying earlier and you just needed to get the ideas onto the page?

Patrick: I just decided I was going to write something every day from more or less nine to five and every day, I did it day by day, every day I had a plan but not for a book. I had a plan to write an essay or a short story idea and I was going to write on that theme and then I might continue it the next day and then when I finished the draft, I might move on to something else. It could be an essay or a short story and it was just a generative — I was just wanting to generate a load of stuff and a lot of the book came out of that. It was a great luxury, to be honest, like it was — I probably wrote, in a way, I probably wrote half the book as I was working before and after but I got a huge chunk from that period.

Bryan: So you said nine to five, a lot of writers would say they’d struggle to write for more than two or three hours on a given day, they need to get up and do something else. Were you actually able to sit at the keyboard and work ’til lunchtime and then go back at it after lunch?

Patrick: I think possibly because I knew I only had three months, I was able to motivate myself through that, although I am always impressed by Roddy Doyle. Roddy Doyle works pretty much a nine-to-five day and the way he does that, he says, is he just works on a different project after lunch so he might be working on a novel in the morning and he might be working on a TV project or a play or something in the afternoon and I liked that idea. I think that’s partly why I also liked doing different themes. I think that I found very much that going from — I was basically writing a short story and essay like on alternate kind of days or two-day bursts and I found that a really good way of being productive because you’re using very different bits of your right brain when you’re writing an essay versus writing a short story. So, in the same way like Roddy Doyle was saying where he might do a different project after lunch, I think you have way more capacity, it’s just probably not capacity for that one project for extended periods.

Bryan: Yeah, I used to write a lot of short stories but I didn’t do anything with them so that’s probably a mistake because I think writers need to go out there and get feedback from an editor, which you’re well used to, obviously, or from other readers so they can figure out if something works rather than just rehashing their sentences and trying to figure out the story alone. 

Patrick: Did you send those stories to people at all?

Bryan: I sent a couple of them towards the end but, looking back, not as much as I should have, but I think I should have been just — taking your approach which is finishing them even if they weren’t very good and sending them to people and moving on but I spent a lot of time trying to write perfect little sentences because I was taking a writers’ class in the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin at the time.

Patrick: It’s funny, like short stories are art, like I kind of find them very difficult and I’ve had like knockbacks, you know? Like I sent — I’ve been sending short stories off to people for years and had a few published but I’ve also had loads of rejections which I also think is just part of the process. There aren’t that many places that takes short stories.

Bryan: No, there’s not. There’s not. It didn’t help that I was reading Raymond Carver as well —

Patrick: No, no, you need —

Bryan: They’re very difficult to figure out.

Patrick: You need to read something less good than Raymond Carver when you write.

Bryan: Yeah.

Patrick: I love short stories, I love science fiction, so I found what was really motivating was kind of schlockier sci-fi stories which — whereas if I read something like Raymond Carver, I just go, “I’m never gonna be able to write this,” I like quit, whereas if I listen to like Ray Bradbury who I actually love but when I read Ray Bradbury short stories, I go, “Yeah, I can kind of think I could maybe do something like this.” It’s kind of like punk rock makes you a star, you know, whereas if you listen to Led Zeppelin, you go, “I’ll never be able to play guitar” —

Bryan: It’s not going to happen. So when you’re writing fiction, do you have a preferred genre or do you just like to try different genres? Because it’s possible.

Patrick: I kind of prefer genre in that I now know that I’m terrible at writing realist short stories and I think that’s because they start to bore me and I think that’s because, as a journalist, I’m dealing with real world all the time and I kind of feel deep down that if I’m going to deal with the real world, I’d do it in nonfiction, you know? I’ll go do a piece on something or — and, consequently, when I try and write a domestic scene about a husband and wife having an argument, I just go, “Maybe I should just have an argument,” writing about the argument. So I end up writing kind of non-realistic and I do really like sci-fi and fantasy. I love writers like Ted Chiang and Neil Gaiman and kind of writers like Can Xue and people like that, you know? Oh, and Margaret Atwood —

Bryan: Yeah. I read science fiction —

Patrick: Yeah.

Bryan: Oh, yeah, they’re very good as well. 

Patrick: Yeah. I love Ursula Le Guin.

Bryan: Yeah. I read science fiction to switch off but maybe I should try your approach.

Patrick: I definitely think there’s something in — when I was in bands, there were bands that made you want to give up and there were bands, like if you went to see a really good punk band that made you feel like you could do it, you know? Because it’s three chords just in a genius formation and I think there are definitely writers that make me want to give up because they’re too good, right? And then there’s writers where you go, you can almost see it, “All right, there’s a verse, there’s a chorus, there’s a verse, there’s a chorus,” like I see how that works and it’s cool and maybe I could do something like that and, for me, writers like Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman make me feel like, “Oh, maybe I could do this,” you know?

Bryan: Yeah. Yeah, they’re following like an arc or a story format that you can kind of see if you look underneath the curtains. So, you mentioned you had a lot of material after your three months, did you have a criteria for figuring out this goes into the book and this stays out?

Patrick: That thing I was saying about it needs to be entertaining or helpful or both and, occasionally, I find things just weren’t entertaining or good enough, in that sense, and sometimes things were — it was personal and maybe it was about something serious but I didn’t think it would be helpful for anyone to read it so I kind of used that as my criteria. I kind of only realized that afterwards that that was my criteria but I realized that’s kind of how I think about most of the things I do —

Bryan: It’s a good criteria. And in terms of actually the process itself, were you writing in Word and then sending it to your editor or did you have some other system?

Patrick: Yeah, I’d write in a laptop in Word and the — like with the short stories. The essays I’d send to Brendan because he asked but he wasn’t officially my editor at that point. I guess I kind of suspected he might be but there was no book on the table. There was just a kind of — there was just a general interest and I guess I was kind of circling certain themes and circling certain kinds of essay with that book and I was doing that before it was a book so I was kind of building into something but I think it was more unconscious than conscious in the early days.

Bryan: And in terms of promoting the book, like you would have name recognition in Ireland but, outside of Ireland, how do you promote a book of essays or what’s working for you at the moment?

Patrick: I’m just happy to talk about it to anyone who wants and anybody who’s interested. I think it’s a great privilege if someone is interested. So, yeah, like I think it did — like there’s a lot of worries about book publishing last year. I think book sales in Ireland stayed pretty good. I don’t know how they did in the world in general or the UK but I remember seeing at a certain point that sales had only fallen by a percent last year. So my book was originally meant to come out in May last year and, because of the pandemic and lockdown, it was pushed back to September and loads of books then came out in September because loads of books were pushed back, but I think a lot of them did okay. Mine did okay.

Bryan: Okay, okay, that’s good. That’s good. So, do you think you will wait long until you write the next book?

Patrick: I just have to figure out what it is, like I’m working on stuff. I’m writing since — my brother makes films, I’m writing the script with him, and I’m continuing to do my journalism day job, which is always interesting, and I’m just generally kind of figuring out, like there’s a lot of short stories that I’ve amassed that I’m trying to figure out what to do with and I am circling maybe doing some sort of essay-reportage hybrid next but I don’t — I haven’t really got anything to pitch a book. I don’t have an elevator pitch yet. But I’ll figure it out.

Bryan: So your book is traditionally published. Have you ever considered self-publishing?

Patrick: No, but when I was in bands, we put everything out ourselves, which is kind of interesting. And I was talking to Ronan Hession who wrote Leonard and Hungry Paul who I also know from music because he was in a band called Mumblin’ Deaf Ro and we’re kind of talking about how, in indie music in Ireland in the late nineties and early noughties, there wasn’t really a stigma about putting stuff out yourself whereas there is a kind of weird stigma in publishing about kind of publishing a book yourself, which there probably shouldn’t be because, in music, there are plenty of examples of people who’ve released their own records that have been highly acclaimed and well received.

Bryan: Yeah, just when you mentioned short stories, because there are less places to publish short stories traditionally.

Patrick: But I’m trying to figure out the quality control because I think that the good thing about how short stories get published is there’s a — when a book comes out, oftentimes, a lot of those stories have been published somewhere and they’ve been through some sort of critical straining mechanism where they’ve been tested out by different editors and readers whereas I think, unfortunately, short stories can be a very hit and miss medium. So I’m just trying to read my own stories critically at the moment. I know I like some of them a lot and I’m trying to figure it if they all make great — that’s the really hard thing for writers through themselves, like that’s why you need editors and you need people to come in and go, “That needs work,” you know? Because sometimes you finish something and you go — I don’t know about you but I finish something and I go, “This is a work of genius,” and I look at it a week later and go, “This is turgid and awful.” So I definitely need — and actually both things are right, you know? You kind of — I swing from thinking, “I’ve reinvented the literary world,” to going, “I can’t even spell,” and then, you know, that’s where you need someone to come in and go, “No, actually, there’s promise here but it needs work here,” and I don’t think there’s very many writers who can do that themselves.

Bryan: No, not a — and do you send your work to people in the newspaper, in the Irish Times or like friends or do you send them to people in your own social circle or who would you ask?

Patrick: I’ve asked at different points, like my wife, Anna Carey, is a writer. She writes really good children’s books and she’s a journalist. She had a book out last year called The Boldness of Betty which is great about the lockout in Dublin. And so Anna always reads my stuff. I’m good friends with Sinéad Gleeson and she’d read stuff for me. Rosita Boland who I work with and also had a great book of essays called Elsewhere. She often — she has read stuff for me. So like I definitely don’t feel confident about this stuff until someone says it’s good because I have fallen foul of my overconfidence or my underconfidence in the past. And it’s really interesting to me too, like in this book, the one that came out, OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea, like I feel confident about that because I write a funny column in the Irish Times, I feel confident sometimes about the funny ones because I know that laughter is measurable, like it’s like a metric I can understand and what was kind of gratifying was like some of the essays that are more serious, like “Care,” which is about care work and maybe there’s just two or three jokes in writing the whole thing, like a lot of people really liked that and a lot of people really liked “Coolmountain” which is a more reflective essay about my mother’s family in Cork and I, unless an editor had told me those were good to go, I probably would have tinkered with that. I’d probably still be working on that now because I just didn’t — I couldn’t tell. 

Bryan: Yeah. Care work is a tough subject to write about. I used to work as a care worker years ago but so not sure how I would write about it. But, anyway, where can people find your book, Patrick? Or where can they read more of your work?

Patrick: So IrishTimes.com and you can get OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea in most bookshops in Ireland and it’s also in the UK and I think you got it in Waterstones or other English shops too.

Bryan: Okay, I think it’s on Amazon as well. Thanks, Patrick. It’s very nice to talk to you. 

Patrick: Thanks, Bryan.

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