This much I know: Colin Barrett, writer

I always had grand aspirations. I had the impulse to craft my own stories from a very young age. 

I leaned naturally towards creating narrative, rather than passively consuming it. I began by making a comic strip.

I lived in Canada until I was four. My earliest memories are of tall buildings, massive snowdrifts and extreme weather.

We moved to Mayo when I was four and I grew up in Knockmore, between Ballina and Foxford.

I became aware that you could become a writer when I was in my teens.

I studied English in UCD and was a very average student, but it allowed me time to read and to find out what I liked and what interested me.

After college, I worked in a Vodafone call centre in Sandyford for five years before makng the decision to quit in order to do a Masters in Creative Writing in UCD.

I’m a good snatcher of time. I grew up in a large family with four younger brothers so personal space was at a premium. I became used to sequestering myself inside my head, even when there was chaos and noise all around me.

When I moved to Dublin and shared houses with other people, I was able to do the same thing. I certainly don’t need time ‘off ‘ to write although I do prefer to have uninterrupted bursts. However, being distracted and having to take breaks from the page is no bad thing.

I place great faith in the unconscious, in allowing it to come up with ideas during those times.

I don’t think you need to be a particularly intelligent person to be a writer. You simply need to be persistant and doggedly determined.

I never really thought I’d be a success at anything.

When my first book ‘Young Skins’ did very well in terms of prizes and visibility, I found it difficult to accept. [It won the Guardian First Book Award and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.]

I felt very fraudulent for a while. I didn’t think I deserved the success.

My biggest faults are that I’m lazy, judgemental, selfish and a facile thinker. I think I’m awful.

Writing is the best part of me. Being able to decant whatever sensitivity I have onto the page.

I’m not disciplined in the sense of having a set number of words to write or hours to work each day. The only discipline is being available when something does arrive so that I can get it onto the page. Some days it doesn’t happen. There is nothing there. On those days, I find that if I go away and read, I will be re-inspired.

It is good to reinhabit your body, to be more than a solitary brain.

I play some soccer, just five-a-side stuff, which helps with that.

The biggest challenge I’ve had to face so far has been becoming a father and having to look after someone else. Any schedule has gone out the window. My daughter is three months old.

I don’t really believe in an afterlife.

Doing readings and speaking at events is not as terrifying as thought it might be. It doesn’t phase me, although I’m not a natural at it, as it turns out that most audiences are quite benign and want to give you every possible chance of doing well.

Life has taught me the same one lesson, over and over: nobody knows anything, so just do your own thing. And, you do need to be full of burning ambition when you are young. The worst the world can do is live up to your expectations.

  • Colin Barrett is an official ambassador for Culture Night 2016 which takes place on Friday September 16. Museums, galleries, cathedrals, studios, observatories, libraries, parks, government buildings and theatres throw open their doors for free visits, tours, workshops, readings, performances and more.
  • Colin will take part in an evening of literary fun at The Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin 1
  • www.culturenight.ie


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