As someone who left school at the age of 16 and has not been held back by lack of a degree, I often make the point in book talks that writing is a hobby requiring only a PC and time. I have never even been to a creative writing class – up until now.
Why, then, you would be forgiven for asking, have I made the decision to embark on an MA in Creative Writing and Publishing at Kingston University? The answer, in part, is that, like climbing Everest, it is there. With only a handful of O levels to my name, I have been accepted on the strength of my writing. (My essay-writing skills have not been put to the test for 25 years.)
But that is only part of the answer. Two years ago I knew exactly who I was: I was the Deputy Managing Director of a firm of insurance brokers. I knew what the job was, I was good at it and I got things done – even the unpleasant things that no one else wanted to do. I knew the answer to most of the questions I was asked. If I didn’t like everything about my job, I enjoyed certain elements of it and the respect and money that went with the position. I was aware that I would miss the money, but thought that I could make do with less. I was not aware part of the person I had come to think of as me was, in fact, the job. When I left, part of me was left behind.
In the world of writing, I knew nothing. This much was made very clear to me. I was stripped bare.
Writing as a hobby had been fun. Writing as a full-time occupation, on my own, with no feedback, no people to sound ideas off, was daunting. I spent two years producing material without knowing if the end product would even be marketable. A background in business is more useful than you might think. I was used to working 12-hour days so I knew I had the discipline. I could break seemingly impossible tasks down into small pieces and see them through to the end. I was familiar with quality control and so I found I already had the editorial skills I needed. But very quicky, I realised that I needed to go out into the world in order to write about it, so I dug out the business suit and accepted the offer of some consultancy work. It took me longer to realise that I needed to be in the company of like-minded people.
It turns out that there are quite a lot of them. I am hoping that one of them will be prepared to give me a few hints about writing essays.