Getting Started Writing in Gaelic

In 2015, Greg Thomson was one of our Gaelic New Writing Awardees. After a fantastic reading at our showcase in January, he sat down to tell us some of his best tips for getting started writing in Gaelic. 

 

Sgrìobhadh anns a' Ghàidhlig

Ged is i a' Bheurla mo chiad chànan cha do rinn mi sgrìobhadh cruthachail a-riamh ach sa Ghàidhlig. Dh'ionnsaich mi a' Ghàidhlig nam dheugaire ann am Bruach Chluaidh agus an uair sin rinn mi ceum ann an Cànan is Cultar na Gàidhlig aig Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. B' e sgrìobhadh bàrdachd a b' fheàrr leam a-riamh ach sa bhliadhna a dh'fhalbh tha mi air oidhirp mhòr a dhèanamh air rosg.

Mholainn do dhuine sam bith a tha ag amas air sgrìobhadh cruthachail sa Ghàidhlig (no ann an cànan sam bith) no a tha a' tilleadh gu sgrìobhadh na ceumannan a leanas a ghabhail:

 

Leugh!

Tha beartas ann an litreachas na Gàidhlig nach gabh innse agus thug an ceum a rinn mi buaidh mhòr orm, chan ann a-mhàin gun do thog e ùidh mhòr annam ann a bhith a' sgrìobhadh ach gun tug e bun-stèidh dhomh air stoidhlichean is nòsan sgrìobhaidh iomadh linn a thuigsinn - bho bhàrdachd an 17mh linn gu nua-bhàrdachd is rosg an latha an-diugh.

Tha e cudromach, bho thaobh sgrìobhadair, nuair a tha còrr is aon chànan agad, gun leugh thu san dà chànan. Tha thu a' faighinn an uair sin sealladh bhon dà thaobh – far a bheil am beartas agad sa Ghàidhlig, na cleasan cànain is gnàthasan-cainnt, tha thu a' togail eòlais air na stoidhlichean a tha freagarrach agus a tha ag obair ann an sgrìobhadh cruthachail an saoghal litreachas na Beurla cuideachd.

 

Notaichean!

Tha fios againn uile a tha a' sgrìobhadh gu bheil na beachdan is abairtean as fheàrr a' tighinn thugainn nuair nach eil dùil riutha. Feumaidh tu a bhith uidheamaichte airson na h-osagan sin nad mhac-mheanmna a ghlacadh às bith cà bheil thu. Tha e cudromach gun sgrìobh thu na tha nad inntinn oir tha deagh sheans, leis a h-uile càil eile a tha a' dol nar beatha trang, nach mair am beachd ach san tiotan a nochdas e. Fiù 's mura h-eil ùine agad airson do bheachd-smuain a leasachadh air an spot, dh'fhaodadh tu tilleadh thuige fhathast an ceann seachdain no fiù 's fichead bliadhna agus cò aig a tha fios nach tig dàn no sgeulachd ghoirid no dealbh-chluich às a' chriomaig bhig sin.

Read what you can in both languages.

 

Siuthad, Sgrìobh!

A' phàirt as tlachdmhoire, agus as eagalaiche, 's dòcha – ga chur an gnìomh! Ged nach biodh ann ach sgrìobag bheag nach dèanadh ciall sam bith, chan eil sìan coltach ri bualadh ort le peann is pàipear (no coimpiutar).

Ged a bha mi fhìn air na nua-bhàird Gàidhlig agus seann rannaigheachd a rannsachadh air a' chùrsa oilthigh agam agus ged a chòrd an dà stoidhle sin rium cha robh tè seach tè dhiubh a' freagairt air an dòigh a bha mi airson na faireachdainnean agam a chur an cèill ann am bàrdachd. Cha robh sìan a dh'fhios agam ciamar a chuirinn dàn ri chèile, mar sin dheth chleachd mi grunn phìosan bàrdachd Albannach is eadar-nàiseanta a chòrd rium gu mòr a thaobh susbaint is stoidhle agus chuir mi romham gun dèanainn, mar chleas-sgrìobhaidh, tionndadh Gàidhlig orra. Cha b' e facal air an fhacal idir ach chuir mi liut nam bàrd Beurla gu feum a rèir nòsan is gnàthasan-cainnt na Gàidhlig. Chùm mi orm gus an robh a mhisneachd agam airson na ciad dàin agam fhìn a dhealbhadh agus, beag air bheag, thug mi an aire gun robh stoidhle sgrìobhaidh, an guth agam fhìn, a' nochdadh. Thug seo brosnachadh dhomh is mi a' faireachdainn gun robh mi co-dhiù air tòiseachadh air a' cheàird ionnsachadh. Thòisich mi frithealadh clas sgrìobhaidh mun aon àm. agus mholainn do dhuine sam bith gun rachadh iad don a h-uile clas is buidheann is bùth-obrach a tha a' dol – cha ghabh tomhas an t-eòlas is a' mhisneachd a thogas tu bho sgrìobhadairean eile agus cha bu bheag a' bhuaidh a thug seo orm fhìn.  Chuir mi fhìn an uair sin a dhà no thrì pìosan air falbh do dh'irisean litreachais agus, gu h-iongantach, chaidh am foillseachadh.

Mar sin, mholainn gun cumadh tu ort le leughadh – ach na bi leisg ann a bhith dìreach a' feuchainn ort.  An rud a tha annad, nochdaidh e air pàipear. 'S ma dh'fhaoidte gun cuir thu iongnadh ort fhèin! Siuthad, tog am peann!

 

Writing in Gaelic

Although English is my mother tongue I have only ever written creatively in Gaelic. I learnt Gaelic as a teenager in Clydebank and then went on to gain a degree in Gaelic Language and Culture at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye. I was mostly interested in writing poetry until recently; since receiving one of the Gaelic New Writer awards, I've been developing my short story writing.

I would recommend to anyone who's thinking about creative writing in Gaelic (or in any other language) or returning to writing to take the following steps that have helped me immensely:

 

Read!

Gaelic literature has an immense wealth and legacy. My degree greatly affected the interest that I took in Gaelic writing and gave me a wonderful foundation in understanding the writing styles and traditions of centuries of Gaelic literature - from 17th century professional bardic poetry to the poets and writers of today.

If you are bilingual, it is important, from a writer's point of view, that you read what you can in both languages. You then have a window on two very different worlds that you can use in your writing, the idioms and richness of your Gaelic married to your knowledge of suitable writing styles and genres in English.

 

Notes!

Everyone who writes knows that the best thoughts and phrases and words come to us when we least expect them. You have to be ready then to catch these pieces of inspiration wherever you might be. It's important to note down your ideas because there's every chance, with everything else that's going on in our busy lives, that your supposedly unforgettable story fragment survives only for the briefest of moments. Even if you don't have time to develop your idea immediately, if written down, you can return to it again in a week or twenty years' time and--who knows?--maybe a poem or a short story or a play might be centred around that one seed of imagination that was almost lost.

 

Go on! Get writing!

The most gratifying part, and sometimes the most terrifying - the writing! Even if it's nothing but a nonsensical scribble on a page or random words typed on a screen, there is nothing quite like getting your thoughts on paper (or tablet or laptop, etc.).

Although I had studied Gaelic poetry extensively, when it came to writing my own, I had difficulty finding a style or a voice that suited me. I barely knew how to get started on writing a poem. As a writing exercise, I first translated some of my favourite English language poets' work into Gaelic, not word for word, but recreating them according to Gaelic conventions and idioms. I then felt confident enough to write my own first pieces and, little by little, I started to notice that a distinct style, my own voice, was beginning to appear. This gave me a confidence in my writing and I began to believe that I was starting to learn about the craft of making good poetry. About this time I attended a writing class for the first time and I'd recommend to everyone to join every class, group and workshop that's available - the knowledge and encouragement you get from being among other writers and their work is immeasurable. This had such a positive effect on my own writing. I then sent away some pieces to the few journals now that publish Gaelic writing and was delighted to see them in print.

So I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone to keep reading in Gaelic and in English - but to get writing as often as you can. You might just surprise yourself. Go on, grab that pen!