Earlier today I saw a tweet that had been retweeted 255 times and favourited 396 times. That’s a lot of interest in one tweet. Interestingly it happened to be about Hiraeth. The proposed title of my PhD.
So why, Hiraeth?
I would like to say I had Welsh relatives, it was a word in my family history. But that would be fiction. Sometimes finding the right word is down to luck. When I was studying for the MA Creative Writing more than ten years ago, we had to produce a body of writing. This could be a collection of poems, short stories or a novel. We not only had to produce the work, we also had to write a synopsis and chapter plan. And of course decide on a title. I started with The Stolen Child and ended with Ways of Remembering. I wrote hundreds of titles before I chose one and even then I wasn’t completely convinced. What I did discover, was that having a title is something that is very important to me. Without it I am stuck. Ungrounded. I feel incomplete.
It is a way of identifying the piece of writing. For me it signifies what is at the heart of the novel. I like to have a title at the top of my draft writing and I felt the same way about the draft proposal. Here is the first title I had:
Bastard, Baddie or just Bad luck? – Finding a fictional home – An autobiographical novel – Voice and Identity of an adult care leaver in contemporary fiction.
That first word, an awkward moment, a bit in your face. And now a bit embarassing. Like the history of myself. Illegitimate. Stigma. Awkwardness. Secrets. Paranoia. And all those annoying dashes sometimes used for lists or things not so important. Which bits were important? I was confused.
There is a correlation between naming children and naming books. Finalising your PhD title is a bit like that, such an important moment. And somehow you just know when it feels right, when the searching is over and you can relax into the research and the writing.
So how did I find Hiraeth?
I have to confess it was via Facebook. You know one of those right-on sayings that pop up all the time. I saw it one early morning. Its power took my breath away. I knew that most care leavers would relate to the word, it felt permanent, like letters through a stick of rock. It was our word. Having to leave home before you are ready and never being able to go back, the loss, that was Hiraeth. The years of looking through other people’s windows, of yearning, of imagining what home really felt like, that was Hiraeth. I announced it to the world. This is going to be the title of my novel, I said. And I got lots of ‘likes’ so I knew it was the right one!