Jen Ronan is a writer who has recently started her own podcast called ‘Life Intolerant.’ Picture: Diarmuid Greene
10 Questions with writer and podcast host Jen Ronan Jen Ronan
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Ann Mc Donald
Jen Ronan is a freelance writer and has recently started her own podcast called, ‘Life Intolerant.’ In the podcast, Jen shares the difficulties of ‘adulting’ with mental health issues in a fun, relatable, and entertaining way. She plans on having guests on the podcast, so make sure to listen in!
What was your childhood like and where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in Raheen Gardens until I was 10, and it was nowhere near as big and as built up as it is now. At the risk of sounding a hundred years old, “I remember when most of it was all field!” Some craic growing up there. We had one of the first memberships of the first video shop that opened in Raheen next to the corner shop, and our membership card number was R4. I can remember that but I couldn’t get a decent grade in my Leaving Cert history. Go figure. I’ve no idea how my brain works.
When did you start getting into writing?
I’ve always loved writing since I was able to put pen to paper and I realised I could make up my own sentences about stuff. I got a Petite 990 typewriter for Christmas off Santa when I was 9, then I got an upgrade to a proper typewriter and the first writing project I embarked on was what we would now call fan fiction, and it was about Enid Blyton’s series Mallory Towers. I decided to write a sequel called Mallory University. I was 12 and had absolutely no idea what University actually entailed, but that didn’t stop me trying. No wait, it did. I stopped after the first three lines. But it was the thought that counted, I guess.
What was it like when you started your blog/posting online?
Flippin’ terrifying! I’d started out faffing about on Live Journal for a couple of years (if you know what that is, you may need to start buying some eye cream!), writing personal diary type pieces after years of putting pen to paper in journals and diaries, and I discovered that people reacted to what I wrote which obviously would never happen in a private hand-written diary. Then some time passed and I set up an actual WordPress blog with a view to writing actual pieces about things like my mental health as I was having a horrific time and writing the ugly truth about what it was like living with severe depression and anxiety saved my sanity.
I had always felt it was better to have it out of my head and down on paper than to be stewing away by itself making things worse, and I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one in this position so I decided to publish it. I felt so nervous and vulnerable but then I had a chat with myself and realised I wasn’t exactly Perez Hilton dropping articles to millions of readers and maybe 5 people would read it, 3 of whom would be family and friends and the other 2 would find me by accident.
A wee audio snippet explaining how Life Intolerant got its name (featuring the awesome Dr @sarah_clearysc) Enjoy! @JayRow pic.twitter.com/DxQPB4pdDt
— Life Intolerant (@lifeintolerant1) December 7, 2021
Who are your greatest inspirations?
Oof, tough question. Life-wise my Mam who passed away almost 9 years ago, because she’d been through the ringer all through her life in so many areas and she never gave up, we were so close that when we argued we would kill each other, but she was an absolute powerhouse and an example of perseverance in the face of adversity.
Writer wise, the first two authors who come to mind for both their styles of writing and the brutal honesty of their works are Elizabeth Wurtzel (author of Prozac Nation, the first mainstream book that depicted what it was like to live with mental illness in all its ugly glory) and Marian Keyes because she’s one of the best Irish contemporary fiction authors going and you can hear the words as you read them, and that’s a gift.
I also adore Paul Howard aka Ross O’Carroll-Kelly for comedy writing, Bret Easton Ellis, Douglas Copeland, Caitlin Moran, and Limerick author Dan Mooney whose work is just fantastic. I’m very proud to call him a friend, and he’s a prime example of what can happen when you combine serious talent, a solid gold work ethic and superhero-level motivation. If you want to do it, it can be done, but it’s not going to land in your lap. That’s what my battle is and I hope to conquer my procrastination and lack of motivation eventually.
Why did you decide to start your podcast, Life Intolerant?
I’m a chatterbox who’s full of crap and I feel like I’ve loads to say and nowhere permanent to say it! I’ve done talks on mental health over the years and I’ve been a panelist on TV and radio which has been the best of craic, but I’ve always wanted my own platform (apart from writing) to share my thoughts on whatever subjects I want with a focus on talking about the unpleasant taboo issues around mental health.
There are so many people and groups who share about anxiety or depression and it’s all very instagrammable and the likes get flowing, but I want to get real gritty with the dark side of mental illness and talk about the destructive stuff, the ugly stuff, the awkward stuff, and also talk not only to those living with other less palatable mental health diagnoses and their effects, but also talk to those who live with people who are dealing with those issues.
It won’t be all dark and dreary but each episode will be real and honest and I will always list support systems with the launch of each episode. I’m not an expert, so I’ll post information on those who are for anyone affected by the content of my podcast.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Hopefully with a well-established podcast, some class of a publication under my belt and maybe filling in for Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late whenever he pulls a sickie!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Get up off your arse, stop overthinking everything and write something, ANYTHING, every day, and don’t stop until you’ve created something you’re proud of. One of the best pieces of advice I got while in treatment for my mental health issues a few years back was: Activation precedes motivation. Don’t wait to get motivated; get started and the motivation to keep going will kick in eventually. You have to take the first steps.
Is there any advice you’d give to anyone who wants to start a blog or podcast?
Everything in my answer to the previous question! Just do it for the love of it and don’t worry about the numbers. What’s put out from the heart will go straight to the heart. Just do it.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
I’m hoping that Life Intolerant will be exciting, I’m currently working on the script and notes for episode 2 and I’ve got plans for some awesome guests in 2022 so with any luck that’s when the real excitement will kick in!
And lastly, what do you love most about Limerick?
We are a city full of souls who are passionate, irreverent, curious, creative, loving, communal, artistic, supportive, full of craic, spontaneous, and all a little bit touched by the spiritual world. I love my people and I love my hometown. Limerick is extraordinary in the most literal sense and I hope it never loses its magic. ABOY THE KID!
To listen to Life Intolerant by Jen Ronan on Spotify go HERE
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