Saturday, August 7, 2010


If is an obstacle,
that stands in your way,
and If it wasn’t for If,
you’d be happy today.
often recited by J. B. Nagle

I have searched the internet in an effort to discover the origin of the verse above but have been unsuccessful. So, I credit it to my Grandfather J.B. Nagle. Jackie as he was known to family and friends. If you are familiar with this verse and its origin, please let me know.

Proverbs spilled from my Grandpa's lips to suit all occasions and occurrences. "If" is a particular favourite of mine. It has stayed with me throughout my life. To this day I hear Grandpa’s voice whispering it in my ear whenever the "If" word dares to raise its head in my thought system.

What brought this to mind? I attended a Creative Writers Workshop given by Irene Graham in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow a few weeks ago. In one of the lessons she told us, every story line boils down to a proverb. For example: All is fair in love and war; To thine own self be true; All for one and one for all; Beware of Greek gods bearing gifts; Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, etc.

This concept was a revelation to me. Why had I never thought of it before? I spent yesterday searching the internet for proverb sites. There were lists and lists of proverbs to read. I smiled at some of the obscure ones. Proverbs I had not heard since my teenage years and almost forgotten. With these obscure proverbs came Grandpa, sitting in his big winged back chair beside a blazing coal fire, puffing his pipe and nodding his approval. What a sweet moment!

I now read books trying to determine the proverb. Will I use my Grandpa's verse for a story? Yes, I am sure I will. But only "If"


Al said...

Hmm I can't think which proverb would fit my book. I guess I'll have to give it more thought.

By coincidence I was thinking of my grandmother today. My daughter has a cold and not feeling hungry. Out of my lips popped one of my Grandma's "Feed a cold, or you'll have to starve a fever."
Like you say such memories are precious indeed.

Susan Fields said...

Your grandfather sounds like a very wise man! And what a neat concept about story lines boiling down to proverbs - I'd never thought of it that way before, either.

Old Kitty said...

Have I missed something?!?! You've got over 100 followers (*clapping!! Yay!!!*)now AND you've got a NEW LOOK BLOG!!!

Where have I been!??!?!?!?! LOL!!

Oh I love this quote - If so stands in the way good times and happy things all the time doesn't it?!?!?

Thank you Grandfather JB Nagle for knowing these wise wise words!

Glad you enjoyed your writer's workshop!!! I just thought of a proverb (I think it;s a proverb I may be wrong though..)that may explain my wip:

Revenge is a dish best served cold.


Take care

Christine said...

What an interesting idea! I suppose a proverb is like a novel's premise.

I often say 'a stitch in time, saves nine'.

Loved that description of your Grandpa sitting by the fire.

Brigid said...

I loved the image of your Grandad, a wise man.
Thats interesting and true about a proverb being the central theme in a book,

Susannah said...

Thanks for sharing about the proverb and story idea, I like it! I also like your new blog look too. :-)

Cruella Collett said...

Ah. The difficult "if"! I think I owe your Grandpa thanks for putting it this clear. I might have to write that verse down on a post-it and stick it on my desk ;)

Lua said...

“In one of the lessons she told us, every story line boils down to a proverb.”
I think I’ve read this somewhere, in a book about creative writing but I can’t remember what it was now… It makes perfect sense :) And your grandfather sounds like a very wise man, the ‘if’s are our only obstacles…

Jackee said...

Yes, I would believe that. Too bad the proverb I can think of for all my books is the same one--to thine own self be true. LOL. I sense a pattern in my writing.

It sounds like your Grandpa was a wise man... with such a lovely name too. (Ha, ha.)

Talli Roland said...

I love this proverb! I think it's true - that each novel can be boiled down to a theme or a core conflict - and usually there are proverbs around such struggles!

Happy Monday! :)

Ann said...

Hi Al, Funny isn't it how the words of the wise appear in our consciousness. Hope your daughter is feeling better.

Hi Susan, it is a neat concept, yet so simple. My Grandfather was as wise as he was kind.

Hi Kitty, Yes Hip Hip, I have reached the 100 goal. Thanks to you and my other wonderful blogging friends. Your proverb sounds delicious.

Hi Christine, That was one of my mother's favourites!

Hi Brigid, Bet you already knew this didn't you?

Hi Susannah, Glad you like my new look. I tried the new templates, but after much muttering and cursing, I settled for this while I still had some sanity left.

Hi Cruella, My Grandfather would be chuffed to know you are putting his words on a post-it to inspire.

Hi Lua, Yes I must have been using the if word an awful lot as a teenager because I heard this often enough to know it by heart. I still struggle with the ifs.

Hi Jackee, I too write along the lines of To thine own self be true. And yes, you are right it is a wonderful name. So much so, I named my youngest after my Grandfather.

Hi Talli, Hope your Monday is happy and productive. Really once it is pointed out to you it seems so obvious. Doesn't it?

Theresa Milstein said...

I don't know the proverb, but I like it. It's nice thinking of our stories boiling down to one proverb. I guess if we don't know what it is, we'd better revisit our manuscript.

How nice you got to take a writing workshop.

Thank you for the sidebar link.

Olive said...

Sounds like a great workshop and I like the idea of how a story could be condensed into a proverb. I'm not sure whether my type of stories, as in children's stories fit this, but it's certainly food for thought:)

Ann said...

Hi Theresa, you are more than welcome for the sidebar. It is such a great cause! Irene Graham made exactly the same point. If you don't know the proverb the story needs to be revisited.

Hi Olive, It is an interesting concept isn't it. The workshop was wonderful. Didn't realize how wonderful until I was home and the lessons started to take hold.

Barbara Scully said...

Mmmm thats interesting. I'm off now to find those proverbial sites (hee hee) as I am in dire need of inspiration....

Mary said...

I trust Glendalough was as beautiful as ever. I recall a lovely visit there some time ago... a beautiful and inspirational place for a creative writing workshop no doubt. Such wise and inspirational words from your grandfather. By coincidence my grandmother came into my writing thoughts today!

Boonsong said...

It's a great verse wherever it came from.
Thanks for an interesting post.

All the best, Boonsong

India Drummond said...

I like the idea, but I'm not sure which one would suit my current story. I'll have to give it some thought!

Jayne said...

Oh what an interesting idea. Now I feel like searching for proverbs to see what one suits my story! And how nice that it brought back a lovely memory of your grandfather as well, he does sound like a wise chap. Not sure if I said before, but thank you for putting my pic of 'Ginger's contest' on your blog - have made sure that extra entry is noted for you. :)