Real Lives

This is not me. Well it is, but the name Lily O’Grady is a pseudonym and there are two reasons for this.

Firstly I’m not very confident about sending my writing ‘out there’on social media. The thought of publishing words I’ve put together and stories I’ve made fills me with fear and I feel embarrassed.

I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember, my first attempt at a book aged just 6 was bound and put in the school library. It was actually my news book and we’d been asked to write about a play we’d been to see; I just couldn’t stop writing and filled two exercise books.

I had dabbled in poetry as a teenager but most poems became songs as I played guitar and would think nothing of standing in front of the class to perform them. The older I became, the more self conscious I got and so impromtu renditions of my self penned work ceased and I turned instead to a diary.

Through my early married life I continued writing diaries which gradually became smaller and less informative as life got busier and my family grew. I could go for weeks without an entry and then only scratch down dentist appointments, birthdays and things to do.

Lists often replaced diary entries and were the subject of much amusement with my friends as I would literally write down everything I had to do; from getting dressed to making dinner. My lists recorded the minutia of everyday life and I could never turn a page until everything was ticked.

Over the years I would occasionally take the opportunity to write more than my weekly shopping down, most often it would be letters to newspapers. The only ambition I ever held as a child was to become a journalist and so periodically I’d feel the need to voice an opinion, make a complaint or promote something I liked. The birth of social media opened up new avenues for my observations and musings and I took to twitter enthusiastically. It wasn’t long before I joined a local online blog to write about community issues and news in our area.  I had no problem seeing pieces I’d written online because they weren’t personal, this was real time, real life.

The next time I would begin recording a daily diary was completely unexpected and I had no idea where it would end. On March 13th 2013 I was taken ill suddenly and began a hospital journal in order to help make sense of what was happening to me. As my personal drama unfolded I wrote the words we all dread, I have been told I have cancer. This notebook was written up retrospectively into a blog An Unfashionable Cancer,  a story which as yet doesn’t have an end.

Which takes me to the second reason I chose a pseudoynm. Readership of my blog grew and I was asked more than once whether I would turn it into a book. I thought over this idea for several months before deciding to attempt to do just that. It wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined though and I decided to join a local writing group where I’d be able to seek advice and get feedback on my fledgeling novel.

It was then I realised I had a problem, my blog was personal. It wasn’t just my name and events relating to my experience that would be ‘out there’, it was my family and friends as well. Not only that but there were the hospitals, medical staff and other people I’d encountered along the way. If I’m going to elaborate on my story I am also going to have to fictionalise elements of it.

So there it is, Lily O’ Grady was born so that I could use my poetic license and to protect the identities of those people who never asked me to record this journey.

What I hadn’t bargained on was that Lily would give me the opportunity to publish some of my other written work, poems and short stories that I’d never think of putting my real name to. Conversely, the need to hide behind an alter ego has opened a new door and given me a new confidence in my written ability. I may keep her.


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