Why Does Ireland Produce So Many Good Writers?


As an Irish writer, I hope you will forgive my vanity in asking the above question. It’s one of our claims to fame as a people. Mangan, Yeats, Synge, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett, Heaney…the list goes on and these are only the great ones. Of course, I don’t place myself anywhere near this pantheon but these are the writers who inspired me to ask questions about my identity and what it is to be Irish. So here I am, trying to figure out what it is about Ireland that she should produce so many great writers? I’m sitting here at my computer trying to answer that question as honestly, if not objectively, as possible.

Creative writing is a solitary act. It is also the most autonomous and individualistic of all the liberal arts. It requires a certain separateness and apartness. Now I’m not saying we are a nation of solitaries but we do see ourselves as apart and separate. From what? you ask. Well, Britain. We have been cultivating this sense of otherness and separateness for many hundreds of years in the face of British oppression. But it goes beyond politics. Ireland is a part of the Celtic Fringe of Europe. The last stronghold of the fathers of the twilight, as they are sometimes called. Through her we can access the past of a great European civilisation. Of course, this makes us proud but it also helps to nurture that feeling of separateness which drives people to write.

Another common trait in those who write creatively is the capacity for mimicry. According to Nietzsche, all art comes from mimicry. Now, again, I’m not saying we are a nation of mimics. It is a universal human impulse, after all. What I’m saying is that we seem to be quite good at it. Joyce’s Ulysses is a book full of mimicry. He seems to celebrate it along with the wit and eloquence of his characters. Of course, Joyce, in writing the book, is the great mimicker behind it all.

Music is one of the sources of all good creative writing. If the sound and the rhythm are not right, then you may as well throw it away. According to Pater, all art aspires to the condition of music. Irish people are music lovers. So what? you ask. Aren’t all nations? Yes, but I think as far as expressing the national character goes nothing does it better than Irish music. Anyone who has been to a session of Irish Trad music in a pub will know the reverence people have for it. It is a reverence for its power to express something so deep that it can’t be expressed in words.

And, finally, all creative writing comes from a deep rooted need to express oneself. Since we lost the Irish language, be it voluntary or not, Irish people have struggled with an alien tongue and this is, perhaps, reflected in the national literature. You might argue that many great writers were Anglo-Irish, but these writers were as concerned with expressing the national character as Irish Catholic writers were. They were part of the same struggle. That the Irish people achieved a kind of mastery over the language is evident in many works e.g. in the plays of Synge, where the characters speak a kind of noble Hiberno-English. The Irish have not only mastered but adapted a foreign tongue and this is reflected in the astonishing amount of successful Irish writers over the last 150 years or so.

Of course there are other national traits which are conducive to producing good writers. A capacity for suffering is one. An aversion to pomp and grandeur is another.

Then again, maybe it’s all down to there being something in the water!

Whatever the case, the national literature is a source of pride and self-esteem to Irish people all around the globe. Long may it continue.

The Art of Good Content Writing


Writing good content isn’t easy. If you disagree with this, then the content you are writing probably isn’t any good. I like to quote the lines from the film, A River Runs Through it: ‘All good things…come by grace. And grace comes by art. And art does not come easy.’ By this I am not claiming that good content should be a work of literature, only that it should tap into the same resources as literature to win the reader’s attention and interest.

One of the major resources of literature is music. We all share a sense of rhythm and melody, whether we know it or not. People know instinctively when a sentence isn’t right musically. Many websites suffer from tone deafness and a lack of rhythm, simply because not enough work has been put into the content. It makes reading more difficult and less pleasant than it should be. People tend to put their trust into well written content, so if you can’t get the basics right many of them won’t hang around.

Our sense of music also allows us to mimic, or adopt, certain voices and styles. This is very important when it comes to web content writing as it is extremely audience focused. Versatility is an essential for this business. In fact, it is so essential that you will probably never write in your own voice. Web content is shallow in this way but this doesn’t mean it comes any easier than other forms of writing, such as journalism or technical writing.

Another resource is imagination. Being an ‘ideas’ person will certainly help you to go far in this business. If you want to flesh out and expand on the five bullet points your client just gave you, you will need to be imaginative. If you want to put some vigour and originality into your blog post to capture the reader’s attention, you will need to be imaginative. If you want to think of new ways to generate business and promote your company through your content, you will need to be imaginative. Imagination is like the hook of a good tune: it will make people want to hear the entire song. Again, it doesn’t come easy but it is worth  waiting for.

A third resource is the drive to give shape to ideas, to give form to our words. This is related to the instinct for music but it goes beyond that. It is a need for logic, coherence and fluidity. From word to phrase to sentence to paragraph, everything must flow and cohere. A good content writer will cleave to his art until he achieves near perfection. This can mean taking hours on a single paragraph. However, the reader will probably skim over most content in seconds and this is the way it should be.

Of course a lot more has been written about web content than this and a lot more will be written about it in the future. But we mustn’t forget these three basic posits as they are the foundation of all good writing. Many people with ecommerce sites try to write their own content. Some get it right but most don’t. This is because it is an art and if you want it done properly you need someone who knows the art. So if you are building a website, ensure that it performs well and is something to be proud of by hiring a good writer and investing in some beautiful and effective content.