Writer’s Block with Michael E Daly - The Gloss Magazine

Writer’s Block with Michael E Daly

Michael E Daly is a prominent orator, workshop leader, broadcaster and critically-acclaimed author of two books, including The Six Traits of Self-Leadership (2014). He frequently travels throughout Europe to speak, teach, give presentations and workshops on personal leadership and how to set goals for success. He holds qualifications in Public Administration, Social Care and Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise, with an MA in Health Care Management. Prior to his current career, Daly spent almost a decade studying to be a monk.

Conversations in Singapore is his inspiring second book about self-exploration and what true success means to the individual. Stemmed from a challenging group journey from London through Europe and along the Silk Road from Istanbul to Singapore, we meet Daly as he reaches a crossroads in his quest. He is supposed to be composing a book about success through the ages, as advised by his agent, but he just can’t seem to write. He is about to give up and head straight to Sydney, their final destination, when a friend offers him a golden opportunity. It comes in the form of a subsidised stay in a luxury Singaporean hotel where he may at last put pen to paper about his experience – and what true success means to him. Grateful but daunted, he arrives at Hotel Falah (translation: “Hotel Success”) where help arrives from a most unexpected source – a waitress called Parandin. Written in a clear, warm and whimsical fashion, Conversations in Singapore is a modern fable which echoes the story-telling style of Paolo Coelho. Dr John Scally (Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin) has called it, “An invaluable book which reminds us that we define ourselves by our choices.”

Michael E. Daly lives in Dublin. He is currently working on his third book.

Conversations in Singapore (€14.99) is published by Liberties Press and available from all good bookshops.

On home

Home for me is a terraced house in a small Dublin housing estate nestled between Blanchardstown to the East and Clonee Village in Co Meath to the West. It’s a great place with a mix of the urban and the rural and all that goes with this: never being too far from the hustle and bustle of the city, and yet having the calm and slowness of the pace of life that goes with the countryside on the doorstep. When writing it is always great to be able to get a walk in to get grounded and clear the head and I’m so lucky to have a great local park where there is as likely to be a hurling or cricket game going on. It’s a hive of multiculturalism, brilliant for getting the creative juices going. Yes, it’s city living only with a real village feel to it and community spirit and that is so evident whether I’m dropping into Lisa’s barbers in Blanchardstown for a hair cut or the Grasshopper in Clonee for a bit of breakfast. As I work for myself and am traveling a lot it’s very handy being both close to the M50 and the airport and this was key in deciding to move here in 2003 along with having both the urban and rural feel to the place.

On roots

I originally grew up not too far away in what is now known as Glasnevin, yet to many of my generation it is still referred to as Ballymun and I went to St Kevin’s CBS school in Finglas, a great place to grow up and go to school. Many of my friends from back then are my friends to this day: loyalty does count for something. We are very loyal to each other and to our roots – something of which we are very proud. While growing up there, my time was spent earning money delivering newspapers (having read them first, of course) for Willie Bennett, and going to our local youth club and summer project in Our Lady of Victories Primary School on the Ballymun Road. My mother Mary still lives there, so I’m back and forth regularly. When I call in, she loves nothing better than to get out for something to eat in Andersons, just off Griffith Avenue, where Tom, Colm and the team always have a great welcome and serve lovely food too. The fact that my mother has a sweet tooth (something she denies) will mean we have to call in to Jamel in Le Petit Café for one of his desserts and a coffee on the way home. She’s a ferocious reader and there is always a book, newspaper or magazine by her side – this is also the case for me. I believe I got my inquisitive mind, and my quest for and love of knowledge, information and reading, and no doubt writing, from her.

On monastic living

To always be questioning and to be open to the answer, regardless of whether you like it or not. To always be true to yourself and go and live your life in a way that makes the world a better place for you being in it. This, along with my dad John dying at such a young age, prompted me to think about and reflect on the sacredness of life, and how easily it can all be taken away. This period was pivotal to me deciding to study to be a monk for nearly a decade, having completed my Leaving Certificate in 1985. And it was this time in the monastery that no doubt led to me becoming a lifelong student in how to live my life to the best of my ability. To seek out when it is that I feel truly alive, at my strongest, best and most fulfilled. In this process of seeking, I came to recognise that I feel most alive and strongest when I am writing, giving talks and mentoring others, helping them to figure out the work they need to be doing, and the life they need to be living, for it to be one of true success for both them and the people who matter most in their life. The challenge having left the monastery back in the nineties was to go and build my life using these strengths. This is something I have strived to do since then, and led to the writing of my first book, The Six Traits of Self-Leadership, in 2014.

On creating

My friend Anne, whom I had been to college with while studying to be a monk, had me stay in her apartment in Sydney. She allowed me to use her kitchen, as I do at home, to write. She has a big wooden table with easy access to a power-point and printer. And that is all that is needed: a table to spread out the printed work which has already been done, and a computer to type away on. The only difference was the view from her kitchen window, which overlooked lovely gardens and a swimming pool.

This was somewhat different to my own back in Dublin, with its view over my garden, which always has a welcome for Philip, a wild cat who calls in for food, and some peace and quiet – which he will always get, as I live alone. In many ways, it’s Philip’s garden and home – even if he will never let you get between him and the back door, for fear of being locked in. He really is a free spirit.

I’m most content when writing in this room (maybe it’s the symbolism of the kitchen nourishing the body and the writing nourishing the mind, heart and soul), and rarely use anywhere else – unless, of course, I’m travelling for work. I’m not a big cook, so the kitchen is the most underused room in the house; for that reason, it’s also the tidiest! I have to make sure, if at all possible, that the space in which I’m writing is neat and tidy. (This might be a throwback to my time in the monastery.) This really does help me keep the head clear, and for the most part clutter-free (and noise-free, as there’s no radio in there either).

I like to work in four-hour blocks of time when I’m writing; this helps me to stay focused. If I need a good break away, and not just a walk in the park, then it’s off to the Hill of Tara for some inspiration on my own, or to the Boathouse Restaurant at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park for a coffee. Or if a bit of relaxation and company is required, then it’s off to a Bohs match in Dalymount Park or to Hill 16 to watch the Dubs or, when the time permits, down to Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club for a sail in Dublin Bay. The leadership show I present on our local community radio station, Phoenix FM, which broadcasts from the Blanchardstown Centre, is a great way to switch off from writing, yet is also a super way to stay motivated, as I get to interview so many brilliant people who are making our communities better places to live, work and study in.

On his “TBR” pile

When it comes to books, I love to read autobiographies, biographies and true stories. So this has me reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre. Likewise, when I’m writing, it’s all about reading books within that area. I would now love to write a book about believing in yourself, to not just conform, and to have the courage to follow your passion and purpose in life and work. This has me reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown and The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi.

On bookshops

When buying a book, it’s off to the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar, as they are just passionate about reading and all things books. Likewise, I always pick up a book in WH Smith’s in Dublin Airport when I’m passing through: Heidi Murphy and her team there are doing a brilliant job in giving Irish writers all the support they can.

On travel

Two places that I love to write in when I’m travelling during the year to give courses on self-leadership and goal-setting for true success are Nordhausen University of Applied Sciences in Germany and Vilnius University of Applied Sciences, where the Irish Ambassador to Lithuania launched my first book, after I had given a talk there last December. There is always a great welcome, and they love the way I use stories as a way to engage with and make the most of the opportunity when giving a talk to an audience, whether it’s on being leaders in their own lives and work, or on coming to know what true success is in their life and work, and how they can achieve it.

On Conversations in Singapore

I took six months out in 2015 to focus on writing Conversations in Singapore, while traveling overland from London to Sydney, taking in the Silk Road. The journey took 22 weeks to complete: we travelled by road through 23 countries, including Iran, the “Stans”, and Burma – or Myanmar, as it is known today. Before starting out, I had never heard of many of the countries we would be travelling through; camping was often the only means of accommodation available in such lonely and desolate places as the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. My life, and the book I was writing during my travels, were to change utterly, and amazingly, while I was staying in Singapore. Parandin, whom I met there, allowed me to enter into her world and that of her family while staying at their hotel. She shared with me the knowledge and wisdom (developed over many generations, and handed down to her) into the true meaning of what it is to be successful in life, and not what the dictionary, and common culture, would have us so often believe it is. The book weaves the conversations with Parandin, as to how best to live a life of true success, with the story of my journey on the Silk Road itself.

On what’s next

Having had Conversations in Singapore launched by the Ambassador of Ireland to Singapore, Patrick Bourne, with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe, and Honorary Consul-General of Singapore in Ireland, Ronald J Bolger, in attendance on the night, it’s now all about getting the message of the book out there by giving talks and workshops – along with researching material for the new book.

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