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Daragh Fleming | Ireland

Daragh Fleming | Ireland

Daragh Fleming | Ireland

Q&A with Daragh Fleming, MA 2018

Daragh Fleming is a 25-year-old UCD alumnus from County Cork. While studying for his Masters in Linguistics, he played basketball for UCD. Daragh has recently released a book of short stories called The Book of Revelations. He currently works for WeLocalize, a global transformations partner as a music curator. 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

My passions include writing (shocking, I know!) and basketball. I’ve played for 14 years and am currently playing in the National League with Ballincollig Basketball Club. I also have a huge interest in music, although I don’t play any instruments bar the occasional riff on a harmonica. I currently work for a company called WeLocalize as a music curator here in Cork, which allows me to use the skills I learned during my Masters in UCD.

2. What is your fondest memory of your time in UCD?

Playing basketball for UCD was definitely a highlight for me. UCD has a huge basketball culture both at club level and at university level, so it was great to be able to play. Although I was only in UCD for one year, I feel like we definitely made our mark on the Varsities competition, both on and off the court. In general, the clubs available at UCD are organised very well which is huge for any student interested in sports. 

My other favourite memory was having the opportunity to write for the renowned University Observer, which is a titan in terms of university newspapers. Being able to contribute to the paper throughout the year is definitely one of my more savoured memories at UCD. 

3. Why did you decide to study an undergraduate degree in psychology?

To be honest, it was my indecisiveness that landed me in the Applied Psychology degree. Coming out of the Leaving Cert having to decide what you’ll do for the next 3 or 4 years is difficult. I just didn’t really know what I wanted to do but psychology, specifically the areas of cognition and memory, had always fascinated me so I decided to chase an interest rather than a job, which became a pattern later on.

4. Do you think there is a lot of pressure on college students nowadays to compete for the same career and employment opportunities as all of their classmates?

For sure. I feel like students choose different degrees and career paths because they feel they have to, rather than because they want to. As I mentioned, deciding your entire career direction at 18 is extremely difficult, and it’s a wonder in itself that anyone can nail it the first time around. On top of that, the social pressure online to at least appear to be succeeding is a heavy weight to carry in a generation addicted to being seen and having social status.

5. Is this a factor of rising mental health problems in students?

It would be foolish to think it wasn’t a factor. The pressure is invasive enough on its own, but with the added pressure of social media and the urgency to succeed, and succeed quickly, it’s not hard to see why there’s a rise in anxiety and depressive issues, along with general mental health problems amongst college students. I think a lot of the pressure is built internally too though, as many of us make ourselves feel bad by comparing our own progress to others. I think the most important thing for college students is to remember that everyone achieves goals at different times in their life. Just because someone else is doing well, doesn’t mean that you’re doing badly as a result.

6. Do you find that writing, whether on your blog or a short story, helps you to relax and unwind?

100%. Writing is a form of self-care for me. When I write about mental health on the blog, it usually stems from a personal experience anyway, and so writing about it allows me to relieve the negative thoughts that may have been dwelling. Outside of that, writing is just something I enjoy. I remember during the month of May when I was doing my masters, I had twice as much written for the book as I had for my thesis, which may not have been ideal in terms of college work, but it shows how much I rely on writing to relieve stress!

7. Most inspiring book you have read or film you have seen?

A tough one! I think in terms of books I’d have to point to some of the great short story writers for inspiration, such as Joyce and Chekhov. In a more modern sense Blindboy helped me to realise I could even be published, showing that bizarre and unorthodox stories still hold value and are sought after by publishers and readers.

I think the most inspiring movie I’ve ever seen is Good Will Hunting, not only in terms of the story of the film, but also due to the fact that it was written by a group of friends who felt it was good enough to be out there, which is an important thing for any person who is creating to remember.

8. Why did you decide to change direction and study a Masters in Linguistics? 

I was considering doing a Masters in Creative Writing. I decided against that, primarily because I wanted to do a masters that had more job prospects. Having said that, I did choose linguistics purposely to ensure some job opportunities, but also to help improve my writing. Studying how and why people use different forms of language was a huge help in honing my ability to adopt different voices and tones to tell stories from different perspectives. 

Linguistics was also something we had touched on in cognitive psychology during my undergrad, and it was definitely a stand-out area for me. So although linguistics wasn’t a straight offshoot of psychology, it wasn’t too far from it, and it allowed me to marry my academic career with my passion for writing. 

9. Tell us a bit about your new collection of short stories.

The collection consists of 15 short stories. Some are satirical, some are serious, all of them have an underlying observation about modern life. The tongue-in-cheek title, The Book of Revelations reflects this. When I wrote the first story I didn’t realise that it was the first story of a book, but then they just started flowing out of me. There’s definitely something in there for everybody. There’s stories about friends, lobsters, serial killers, students, the elderly, the homeless, mental illness, hardship, comedy; anything you can think of, and some things you may not have thought of. It’s a collection I’m really proud of and I hope it’s just the beginning.

10. Was it challenging to get published?

It was in a lot of ways. However, I always framed getting ‘published’ as the bonus round. The real joy for me came from actually writing the stories, and so I decided early on that anything else that came from the stories was just an added bonus. So even when I was getting rejected (and that happened A LOT) it never really bothered me too much. I think I was querying agents and publishers for around 6 months before I got the good news from Sulis International Press that they wanted to publish, which isn’t too long a wait to achieve a life goal.

11. What is your advice for any young, aspiring authors trying to get an agent or get published?

I think the most important thing I could say is to write what you want to write, not what you think others want to read. Otherwise, you’re not going to be writing your own story. There’s something unique and special about seeing someone do their own thing, and that’s across all areas of life.

In a more practical sense, don’t let the rejections deter you from getting published, because you will be rejected, and it will happen often. I always thought about it like applying for a job. If you send a CV to 20 places, the chances are 15 of them won’t even get back to you, 3 will reply saying you weren’t successful, and you might get 1 company asking to see you for an interview. It happens to everyone. The important thing is to take it on the chin, respond professionally and drive on. Someone will see the spark in your work eventually and then it’s game on.

12. Where do you see your career in 10 years’ time?

I actually have no clue, and that’s absolutely perfect. I’ll keep writing, and hopefully I’ll bring out books at a consistent rate, but who knows? I’m happy that it’s a mystery. For now, the future looks like a lot of late nights writing and a good amount of basketball. No complaints here!

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