I haven’t written a blog post in a while and I’ve been meaning to write this for a while.
Looking back, my writing journey started late in life. I was roughly 42, it was about five and a half years ago.
I had not been fortunate enough to study at further or higher education level and had to leave school when I was 17 to go directly into the scary world of work, where I have been ever since.
I have had to work incredibly hard to get to where I am today. Working in ruthless commercial organisations that demanded high performance or you didn’t make it. But, I realise I have been fortunate in many ways.
Still, writing was just a dream. The dream would have to wait a while longer as I had to deal with a almost losing my wife while she was heavily pregnant, three months in intensive care for our new born son (and a lifetime of a serious disability) and numerous other things.
But I remained positive. After losing my mum, I wanted to do something to avoid the possible darkness of grief, so I throw myself into writing.
Since I started writing:
- I have created more than 100 stories (more than 80 placed, had mentions or won in competitions)
- Been co-founder and co-creator for FlashDogs, a global community of flash fiction writers (and the anthologies that followed – big thanks to the amazing FDHQ team).
- Written, edited and published a 110K novel.
- Created vss365 (which, thanks to others, has gone on to truly incredible things).
- Created the concept for the vss365 anthology, the the verification, delivery and publication which was a significant undertaking (big thanks to the Ambassadors who were amazing).
- Drafted two more novels and spent years editing them (not done yet).
- Been selected by British Fantasy Society to appear in their inaugural Emerging Horizons anthology
- Joined a Diploma course at Cambridge University.
I have enjoyed this course so much that I want to continue the journey. I have been asked, a few times (once fairly bluntly), why I feel the need to go on a writing Masters course. There are two main reasons:
One: I opted for self publishing because I wanted to get the work out there. Many friends suggested this route, some had even come away from traditional publishing. However, if I had wanted to pursue an agent or a traditional publishing deal, then my lack of formal writing qualifications would have made this incredibly hard. From the most successful traditional published authors that I know, those that have the best success are those with a PhD (even if this is not in a related topic). While these folk are very talented, I think there is still a bias in publishing towards those with higher level qualifications and I don’t want this to be a reason to be rejected.
Two: I have given so much of my life to helping others that I now feel it’s time to focus on myself a little more. My writing journey, especially self publishing, feels like a marathon – but not a normal one. I feel like that man that runs the marathon in a Victorian diving suit. It’s heavy, it’s painful, it’s slow, it’s a quest of love. I have someone helping me, but we’re running the race alone, it is a feat of stamina and endurance well beyond the race. Going on the Diploma course, I feel like I have lost the diving suit – and the weight has been lifted. I feel like I am now racing with others, we are on the same course but perhaps running a race for different reasons, I feel like the crowd is there for the first time, I feel like I am learning new things and I am excited by that.
A few people have questioned my decision (including those interviewing me).
Let’s get this right. A Masters doesn’t mean you can write. What it is giving me is a different perspective, excitement, inspiration, time, space, support and most importantly it is lifting me in ways that I haven’t felt before. It is an investment. Almost certainly I won’t get the money back, but what price can you put on feeling a sense of personal purpose, a clarity, a validation of what you are working on and the expansion of ideas that can, literally, take you to any time or place?
So, despite my lack of formal education. I have an offer from Lancaster (currently ranked first in the UK for creative writing). I have an offer from UEA (the oldest, most established, most competitive and successful programme in UK), I feel I did well with my Cambridge interview (but we’ll see) and Oxford is also a possibility.
Somewhere along this journey, you have helped me to get to where I am, so I just wanted to say thank you for taking me to this point. In many ways, it feels like I’m still early on in this journey (despite everything). Life is a journey, it is an adventure, it is learning new things (even when you have done a lot), it is never standing still and always pushing forward. I’m feeling incredible and I am greatly appreciative for your support, love and kindness.