Gas lighting writing survivors.

Where does the term Gas Lighting come from?

Gas Light is a 1938 play by the British dramatist Patrick Hamilton in which a husband literally accuses his wife (falsely) of turning down the gas, when in fact he was in another apartment in the same building looking for lost jewels and his turning on the gas there weakened the flow of gas to his own apartment. The term “gaslighting” is now used to describe a common form of psychological abuse in which victims are made to doubt their perceptions and judgments. The original play is set in fog bound London in 1880, in the home of Jack Manningham and his wife Bella in late afternoon, the time “before the feeble dawn of gaslight and tea.” 

The practice of “Gaslighting” however, is very much a part of our modern day dynamic and unfortunately common in both personal and professional relationships.

Have you ever been on the brink of delivering a new project, submission, or a piece of spoken word only to have the rug pulled from under your feet by a vague accusation that you have committed some kind of misdemeanor and hurt someone dreadfully as a result?

Did you find it impossible to get any kind of plausible explanation other than “I don’t want to talk about it,” so you are left in limbo and the ground under your feet is literally destabilized?

Were you hurt, angry, frustrated but cut off from any kind of meaningful exchange to resolve the issue, the so called “injured party” choosing not to engage after the accusation was hurled, either online, unwitnessed but rarely in and open manner?

And worse of all, did you feel isolated and afraid that the perpetrator had spread their version of events to those you know, work with, write with or make art with?

Well, I, and a few of my peers have experienced exactly this and I have to admit that I did not know at the time that this was “Gas Lighting”. Whereas the circumstances may vary, the process is almost identical and the result is ALWAYS a kick to your confidence as a writer/performer and human being.

I began to really think about why this happens when it happened to me for the third time in ten years (yes, I am a slow learner! 🙂 ). When I spoke to colleagues about it I was literally gobsmacked to find that it has happened to several successful people I know. Of those that admitted it had happened to them, they are, one, extremely talented and two, known to be generous with their time, their skill and in their willingness to support their peers. I had assumed (wrongly as it turned out) that it was more common with women. But it turns out it has/does happen to men too, and the effects are just as devastating.

Creatives being usually emphatic by nature and almost always sensitive about putting their work out into the world, so the effects of gaslighting are toxic and the damage long lasting. It can prevent creatives from working, delivering their art, creating new work and worst of all, having confidence in something they may have loved and labored over for a long time.  

You may not know that it has happened to you, you may brush a toxic or sarcastic remark off as someone having a bad day, but if you begin to second guess yourself and stop enjoying your performing or sharing of your work, chances are someone somewhere has planted a seed of doubt and our minds tend to take these toxic sentences and blow them out of all proportion. Throw in a few rejections that are part and parcel of the writing/arts world and your spirits can sink within a very short space of time and you may possibly begin to question your skill or your right to take your place in what is a very competitive field at the best of times.

So why do some people feel the need to be cruel to others? Why do they feel its ok to issue a vague (or if you are lucky, direct) accusation or complaint without leaving space to discuss openly why they feel that gas lighting another artist is a viable form of resolving any issue?

When looking for an answer to this question the colleagues who had experienced being gas lit genuinely did not have one. When looking online, the most common explanation seemed to be that those who chose to lash out were trying to assert some kind of power over others. In fact, many of the people who had behaved in this way to the colleagues I spoke to were in some kind of position of power. Others were extremely close “friends” or even family, and therefore in a position to inflict as much damage as possible. Some reported becoming very close very quickly only to find themselves on the receiving end of a very “serious” accusation out of the blue. All reported (myself included) to have been blindsided as a result. Confused, exhausted, upset, frustrated and sad.

My own personal opinion is that when we are hurting, we lash out. But creatives are ultra sensitive creatures.

We all have issues. We all have insecurities. We all have doubts. But we DON’T all lash out at other people as a way to make ourselves feel better. I don’t have any insight from a Gas Lighter to share with you as to how they feel when they gas light others as gas lighters tend not to see themselves as anything other than a victim. Lets face it, who is going to put their hand up and say “I do/did that?”

So what can you/we do to protect ourselves from this kind of toxic damage to our creative lives? One thing we all agreed on when we spoke about this for the purposes of my writing this post was the importance of talking to friends, colleagues, peers when it happens. Hiding it for fear of upsetting others or spreading negativity is only ever helpful to the perpetrator. Talk about it. Say “this is/has happened to me”. Gas lighting is bullying in a highly insidious form. We encourage children to speak out when they are bullied, so we too, must speak out.

If the perpetrator is in a position of power then find out who their boss is and consider talking to them.

One common theme between the people I spoke to was that perpetrators were sometimes in a position to affect funding for a project/launch/production. Creatives are by and large dependent on funding to survive. However, more and more artists are taking their career into their own hands and self publishing/funding/promoting their own work so at least in this area artists may regain control over their art once the hurting has healed.

But almost all (myself included) reacted immediately by apologizing, usually out of habit….for what we were not clear. With hindsight you may find yourself saying “what the fuck just happened??? And what high and mighty fuck am I apologizing for??”.

Artists are easily hurt and that hurt can last a very long time. Gas lighters tend to move on to the next victim but it takes artists a long time to recover from the experience. That said, all of the writers/artists I spoke to have managed to navigate a way back to an even stronger position with their work, even if it took a while, by virtue of their talent and commitment to their craft. Some battered and bruised around the edges but finding their tribe among artists who want to create rather than destroy. You would not know by their success and current works that they had ever had this experience and perhaps in time it has made them stronger. But I feel very strongly that each of these people did not need to go through emotional abuse because perhaps their star shone a little too bright, or their piece got too loud a round of applause. Abuse is never necessary and is always toxic to both parties.

You can also report what has happened to you in confidence and with/without naming names in this excellent online survey below. Sometimes even the act of typing your experience and sending it off into the ether in confidence is a game changer in terms of you moving on and recovering.

ITI has launched Speak Up ACTiON Survey, a survey of arts workers & their workplace experiences. The findings will inform policy & the development of artist supports for safe & dignified working environments.

Supported by @DeptCulturelRL


And if it happens again going forward, I have decided to to take a leaf out of Dame Helen Mirrens’ book when she said

” At 70 years old if I could give my younger self one piece of advice it would be to us the words “fuck off” much more frequently.


Take care and take her advice if you think you need to! 🙂


Debut collection Crows’ Books Collection available on Amazon here
Or via PayPal here (€15 per copy includes p&p)Remember to Add Note of your name/address and if you want your copy to be signed.


One year ago today and the wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt.

One year ago today I was starting a masters degree in Creative Writing in TCD and literally wondering how on earth would I compare with the brilliant group of writers from all around the world who were so bright it would take your eye out.

I realized very quickly that comparing yourself to anyone is a complete waste of time and energy. So I stopped comparing and wrote instead.  Plays, poems, spoken word pieces and 90K words of a historical novel.  In December this year, my first collection of poetry (Crow’s Books) will be coming out, much which was edited and made better by the ideas and inspiration of the same group of writers (once I stopped being totally in awe of them and listened to their ideas and suggestions 🙂 ).

I am beyond excited. 

One year later, its all over and not only did I survive the workshopping, the critique, the constant submissions, but I am also now delighted to be facilitating a Creative Writing Course for adults in Palmerstown Community School starting Tuesday 24th September from 7pm to 8.30.  The course is designed to encourage you to write and enjoy it, develop your voice and above all, find a safe space to try out new ideas or your very first piece. (no comparisons allowed! 🙂 ) check it out at the link below; 

The always inspiring Fiona O’Rourke (@fionamkorourke) always says your writing is like a newborn baby, you don’t say to people “it’s is not finished, it’s a bit rubbish, I am going to fix bits of it/him/her” about a newborn baby, so why do we say it about our writing?

Fiona’s words rang in my head for much of the last year, particularly when I got to perform at the wonderful Women Of Wit gig in Bewley’s Cafe, ( with an amazing, talented bunch of women. Delighted to be joining them for more gigs in October and November but in the meantime, I will be going along to see this month’s fantastic lineup on 28th of September.  

Will I be nervous if I compare myself to any of the brilliant performers?? Yes indeedy, I will.

Will I let it stop me doing my thing knowing that it’s more fun to take inspiration from others than comparing myself when each one is unique and different and have their own super talent?

No, I will not! 

Instead, I will focus on writing the material and making it the best it can be and then trusting that on the night it will all be grand….and it will! 🙂

I am also delighted to be facilitating another course of The Artist’s way in Portmarnock Community School starting 28th September on Saturday mornings. Every time I do this course I learn something new, take on something different or find the courage to aim for something special.

Each group is unique and different and generates so much energy and creativity that it’s hard not to be inspired to take a chance….which is why last year I took a chance and applied to Trinity to do the Masters in Creative Writing…..the rest is history.

Next month I will be launching my new business called “Personal Poetry” crafting commissioned, personalized poems to celebrate significant life events and special people.  The new website is in the oven, the poems are in the kiln, and some of the same group of amazing writers that I was in awe of this time last year are among my most supportive critics.

With new coaching clients and clients I had the pleasure of working with before full of ideas and goals and journeys and things they want to achieve in the year ahead, it’s impossible NOT to be inspired for the coming year.

And yes, Teddy Roosevelt was definitely on to something when he said

Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

So how about this week you stop comparing your self to others and start taking inspiration from people around you instead? 

Stop giving yourself a hard time thinking you are not smart enough, slim enough, solvent enough?

And whilst you are at it, see who you can champion, who you can encourage and how much more interesting life gets when you do? 

and the last word goes to the wonderful Susan Jeffers who told us all as far back as1996 that we can all stop struggling when we realise we are, have and do enough, just the way we are.



To compare or to celebrate, that is the question!

The man on the left is from Poland, living in England, supporting Ireland in Lisbon at the Eurovision. Poland was not in the semi-final competition and his best friend is Irish so he chose to put his flag and wig on to support Ireland. Every year he picks a different country and every year, no matter who wins, he makes loads of friends from all around Europe.

Poland finished 2nd in 1994 and did not feature since.

Ireland won it 7 times in total, winning it 3 years in a row.

Does Jakub compare the two and get depressed about his country’s success or lack of it?

Does he heck! He gets his passport out like every year and goes to wherever the contest is and joins in the fun.

Coming near the end of a year doing a big bucket list thing (Creative Writing Masters in Trinity), I am ever conscious of how much or little I have got published. And how old I am compared to many of my peers.

And how heavy I am. And how broke I am after a year in college. And how disorganized my filing system is compared to everyone else.

Recently I had the opportunity to read some poetry at a recent Women Wit & Wisdom event organized by the indomitable Yvonne O’Reilly in Bewley’s Cafe.  ((

When I got the gig I was delighted. When Saturday came I was sick with nerves. When the first four acts came on I wanted to leave quietly and run as fast as my legs could carry me down Grafton St roaring “what the fuck was I thinking??

Each act was polished, perfect, funny, amazing and profound.

Then it was my turn.

I did my thing and nerves aside had a blast.

But I wondered how much easier it would have been if I just focused on each amazing act and decided to take inspiration from them instead of worrying that I would make a hen’s knickers of my lines?

So this week how about you give yourself a break from the comparison game?

How about you stop yourself every time you see someone you think is slimmer, wealthier, happier, more successful and instead of comparing yourself give them an internal salute and take inspiration from their achievements?

Saying “well done” to someone is much more fun than saying “I will never be like you”

The first makes people happy, the other makes them feel guilty for what they have achieved.

I  have no doubt that some of us writers will make it quicker than others. Some may give up and do something else, and some may take a long time to publish the “book”.

But I also have no doubt that energy encouraging each other and taking pleasure in each other’s success will create much more possibilities than worrying about trying to catch up or outrun someone with a different skill set at a different time in their lives.

That said, it would not be this time of the year without a picture of our Johnny, Ireland’s most successful Eurovision winner EVER, who continues to entertain comparing himself to no one…..inspiring thousands of Eurovision hopefuls  🙂 🙂 🙂 



.…. you’re welcome! 🙂 🙂 🙂 


Writing Retreat on the shores of Lough Dooley Saturday April 2nd.

10am to 5pm Belturbet, Co. Cavan.

Have the last two years taken their toll on you and your writing?

Have you lost the connection with what you want to write about?

Are you struggling to stay positive in a world that has changed utterly and continues to change even as each day is unfolding?

If so, we would welcome you to Cavan on 2nd April and take time out to rest, rewind, and reconnect with your writing.

This one day creative writing retreat with Anne McDonald with help you explore how you can use creative writing to take care of your physical and mental we move into a new year when many of our supports have been changed and we have to find new ways to take care of ourselves.

Host Eileen McCandless and Writer Anne McDonald are delighted to provide you with a day where you can rest, write and decide what is important to you.

 We will explore different techniques to help you get started, to help you reconnect and to

develop healthy writing habits you can use in everyday life.

 We will look at how writing can help you deal with stress and anxiety and how it can

move you into a place of peace and well-being.

 The workshop will be interactive with group exercises and time for quiet reflection on

the beautiful shore of Loughdooley.

Venue; Riverrun, Loughdooley, Belturbet, Cavan.

Chef Eileen McCandless,who has many years’ experience in the hospitality and catering industry having run her own business in Howth, Co. Dublin for over 20 years.You will be welcomed to Eileen’s home with coffee/tea and freshly baked scones. A healthy, nourishing lunch will also be freshly prepared and served in the beautiful kitchen/dining room overlooking the lake.

Facilitator: Anne McDonald (B.A., M.Phil) is a professional life coach, creative writing teacher and award-winning spoken word performer. She was the life coach on the BBC production of The Last Resort, featured on Woman’s Way magazine and has facilitated The Artist’s Way for many years. Her poetry collection Crows’ Books was published in March 2021

Cost 95.00 euro Booking via paypal or revolut 0892329373 (email for other payment methods)

Places limited to 12 people, book by emailing

Crows’ Books….20 years in the making!

So after many attempts and lots of procrastination my debut collection of poetry was launched in March of this, the strangest of years. I am the first to admit I totally underestimated the amount of work that goes into putting together a collection of poems, but am also the first to admit that when you hold your book in your hands for the first time, it is a feeling like no other and one to remember.

This book is part memoir, part social comment, part whatever strikes me at the time I want to write a poem, but all of it is me, from the painting on the cover to the sentimental, angry, sad, happy and downright adamant.

If you are starting out to write, or have been writing for a while and would love to put your work out there then my advice to you would be to just go for it, find a supportive publisher (mine was published by Seabhac Press) and send it out.

I am delighted to be part of the Fingal Write Time for this September, facilitating a four week Creative Writing Class called Feel The Fear and Write it Anyway, these sessions are free of charge but booking is essential, there are some places left on the 1pm to 2pm sessions which run for the four Saturdays in September by emailing

or visiting the link

Debut collection Crows’ Books Collection available on Amazon here
Or via PayPal here (€15 per copy includes p&p)Remember to Add Note of your name/address and if you want your copy to be signed.

Making a difference by being yourself, Albert Cashier and Jennie Hodgers, a real life ordinary hero.

Did you ever feel that to make a difference you needed to do something extraordinary?

That you would need a special kind of superpower not available to ordinary people?

Or that ordinary people are rarely extraordinary compared to people like Elvis, Nelson Mandela or Annie Lennox? 

Thinking we cannot make a difference without doing something magnificent can often blind us to the many ordinary people who paved the way for what we take for granted in an “enlightened world”.

This month I have been looking up extraordinary Irish female history makers in preparation for a new course for the autumn and one of the most extraordinary women I have come across (and there are many!)  is one Albert D. J. Cashier, who was born Jennie Irene Hodgers,  on December 25th, 1843, in Clogherhead, Co. Louth.

As a young emigrant, Jennie adopted a male persona somewhere between leaving Ireland and arriving…

View original post 691 more words

Goals and Obligations, what makes you happy?

My last post was about buckets and bucket lists….and the reason its taken so long to write another one is that some of the big things in my bucket have happened -the Eurovision in Lisbon being a big one, but whilst I was there I got a place on the M.Phil in Creative Writing in Trinity…epic! And now we are into week 2 of my favorite thing to do at the weekend, The Artist’s Way!


So its that time of the year when the leaves and trees are lying down to have a rest and we are all running to night classes to take up ukulele lessons and Thai cookery. Nothing wrong with that….whilst the evenings are bright and we are still relatively connected to summer. However,  it is a really good time to adjust our compass and see where we want to go, rather than where John Lewis, Guinness or Marks & Spencer takes us as the nights close in and Bulmer’s Horses beginning to trot across the television screens followed by the Coca Cola trucks.

And so begins the insidious build up of stress. The obligatory Christmas parties you would never organise the other 364 days of the year, the piles of candles, slippers, autobiographies of reality tv stars and tat we buy that end up in the charity shops in February (NOTE, that’s when the best bargains are!) and the feeling of your hard earned cash developing wings and leaving you feeling broke, tired and hard done by.



You can decide this year to box clever and take a little time to think about what is important to you over the next few months and make sure you have a clear idea about where your resources are spent.  There are lots of opportunities over the next few months to choose what you want to do over what you feel obligated to do.

You never know who you will inspire if you say “No, this is what I would prefer. “ and God knows who will be inspired if you “No, this is what I prefer, so this is what I am doing.”


You might have a red face or a stutter but afterwards you can look in the mirror and it will be fine, truly!

January is traditionally goal setting time. When we are all broke, tired and waiting for pay day. We even have Blue Monday just in case we were feeling good to remind us that time time of the year is traditionally miserable.

So why wait until January to get clear on what is important to us?

We can set goals or intentions. Focus on things that are meaningful and mean something to us. 

Anyone that has ever struggled with weight or money will know that Christmas can be  a nightmare. 



So why would I wait until January to set a goal  or intention around a healthy weight/size/shape? Or wait until January to start a “comfort” money fund?

No reason really….except its easier….except it isint! 🙂 

Night classes and weight watching clubs peak in September and January…by October motivation begins to wobble and then its November and then the Christmas do’s start and sure it’s going to be Christmas and then there is no point and then we might as well wait until January to make a real start and get a good run at it! …Sound familiar?

How about doing it differently this year?

How about deciding, DECIDING what you want to feel, do, be and have when Christmas is over.  

Then make a start and make a plan.

Write it down, keep it near you.

Find like minded souls who will help you out. 

So you have a blueprint for where YOU are going, no matter what the festive season throws at you.

There are over 11 Weeks left in this year, nearly 3 months – yours to do what you want with.

That’s a lot of days….80 odd to be exact. 

How will you spend yours? 


eurovision 2018 Lisbon

No one else wants what you want (see above!) so make a point of trying to figure out what it is what you wan then enjoy making it a priority!

Buckets or Bucket list?

This month, next monday myself and my daughter are going to the Eurovision in Lisbon. 

This has taken many many years waiting for a country to win whose name we can pronounce and who has an airport we can fly to direct from Dublin. 

We have had plenty of “feedback” from people who can’t understand why on earth we would want to go. 

Do we care?????

Do we feck!

This week I will buy flip flops, a new bag for the plane (no check in suitcase nonsense) and a pair of green feather boas.

I could do with a new washing machine.

But a washing machine is not on my BUCKET LIST. 

Ever since I can remember we watched the Eurovision at home.  Every year it’s got a bit wackier (Australia? really?) But every year for a few days a lot of people turn up dress up and have a blast singing pop songs and generally making a lot of people happy (maybe not the Russians!)

This year the Irish entry is from Skerries…down the road from where I live.

So that’s a big tick off the list.

Another thing on the list is to be a happy successful published writer. (not the tortured kind in a garret eating beans out of a tin)

This year I have had some pieces published/short listed and I can tell you it makes me happy. I got to take part in the amazing Label Lit event which had poets the length and breath of the country leaving poetry on labels to make people smile or think. I came home from Roscommon Poetry Day with labels from poets I never met and left labels on hedges/statues and in hotel beds. Kind of like the Eurovision of poetry!

Does anyone deep down really care if I go to Lisbon or write a poem?


And they won’t care if you travel to the Himalayas or learn to play the trombone. If you take up tap dancing at 55 or go vegan after eating meat all your life.

Really, no one cares.

You, on the other hand, will care a lot if you dont make time to do the things on your wish list/bucket list. You will spend a lot of time resenting work/family/friends who make demands on your time, money  and resources which stops you getting anything you really want done.


You could take the time (yes, it takes time) to sit yourself down and write you honest, truthful personalised bucket list. Just for you. No point if writing “I want the kids to be healthy and happy” if you really want to learn origami or try ballroom dancing.

The universe needs clear instructions from you to give it some chance of giving you what you want. Otherwise, you get what is left over when everyone else gets what they want.

And then you feel sorry for yourself, or hard done by. Your bucket list becomes a bucket with a hole in it.

So how about this week you make a few minutes to genuinely draw up a bucket list so that on the days when work is hard and kids are sick or the weather is shite you have something to look forward to, to dream about, to plan, to research, to set a goal about?

Your  clocks only go one way. You can’t go back. You get this one life.

If you set your list you may make it happen.

If you dont your time will go anyway.

Then you could end up with Johnny Logan on a permanent loop in your brain singing

“What’s another year?”……:) 🙂


Where does inspiration come from?

Crows Books & God’s Horses

Did you ever read a book, a poem or a story and wonder how the hell did someone come up with that idea?

Have you watched a film recently that you loved but wondered how  someone could take a script on paper and turn it into a visual masterpiece?

Have you ever looked at a painting and wondered what put the idea for that into someones head or what were they smoking when they painted it? 

At a recent writing workshop with the fabulous Fiona O’Rourke, we were asked to write down the first things we heard as babies. Simple enough exercise for a thursday evening.

What we heard or did not hear produced a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration so much that my head was going to burst….and that was only listening to four or five peoples sounds apart from my own!

I heard the sound of O’Donnell Abu on the radio first thing in the morning.

Wood pigeons.

The shipping forecast (including Malin Head, knots, decibels and the Irish Sea)

The low moan of Jersey cows across the road. 

Racing commentary from Aintree on a Saturday on the tele and from Newcastle on the portable radio in the shed at the same time.

The Sunday Game on the same portable radio. 

The Angelus which seemed to go on forever.

The theme tune to the Magic Roundabout and the bastard Zebedee who always said “it was time for bed”.

The Kennedys of Castleross.

The wind which I thought was a banshee whistling on the wires in Mornington.


The sounds also brought alive the other memories. The smell of burning porridge (sorry mam!) a sink full of prawns, pheasants hanging on the back door of May Mullen’s kitchen (I loved the colours of the feathers) my granny’s many cats howling like dying babies in the night. Frost, daffodils, bluebells, rabbits and leaves.

My mother would not have been particularly known for being creative, and yet like so many people of her generation she was creative on a daily basis which we took for granted as “just how she did things.”

She told me casually that black furry caterpillars were “God’s Horses”. Pine cones which had fallen were “Crows’ Books” and a flock of crows flying overhead were “Crows going home from school”. I believed her as any four or five year old would. And why not?

I doubt very much if Peggy was being profound or inspiring or literary in those moments, I expect she heard the same thing as a child. When I decide to write or paint or make something I could go to an art gallery for lofty inspiration, read a book of classic poetry or see a play.


I can go back the Bettystown in my head, to being four or five years old and see what I could see then. Listen to what I heard then. Smell lilac, honeysuckle, gorse bush for the May alter or feel chestnuts smooth and brown picked on the way home from school. See the mussel beds at the sea or the crunch of sand in the sandwiches on the beach. The salt smell of scutch grass and the smell of whitethorn blossoms and hot tar on the road in summer which was great for poking sticks in.

As I type I have a bunch of daffodils picked from my cousin’s garden on my desk. There were daffodils growing in the same garden when I was small and they smelled just as lovely then as they do now.

From one simple exercise on a thursday evening I have a hundred different smells, sounds, visions memories that I can draw on.

And I didnt have to go anywhere.

It was all there anyway.

(Peggy would think I have lost the plot 🙂 )

My guess is that most people write/paint/make from what they see around them and what they know,

what they remember

and what they feel.

So this month if you feel uninspired and a bit fed up of doing the same thing over and over but being too tired to “think up” something different, why not find a few minutes to   yourself with a pen and paper.

Remember what your favorite smell was as a child (I also remember the smell of silage!)

What season or type of weather did you love?

What did you like to look at? Water? Grass? Meadows? Houses? Sky?

And write it down, or paint it, or find something that smells the same now as it did then.

If you want to go to town or out in nature to get inspiration then by all means do.

But I am guessing there is a whole world of inspiration just inside your head, behind the worries about bills and kids, parents and work, underneath the fears for the future and just beside your hopes.

You never know what you might find.

You never know what you might make with it! 🙂 🙂


…and if you are feeling inspired to take your creative muscles out for the spring then join us in Portmarknock on 14th April for a seven week intensive course of The Artist’s Way on Saturday mornings.