My Writing Journey (so far)

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.
Just another day in Cambridge

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.

3 Replies to “My Writing Journey (so far)”

  1. Wow, Mark. This is a fantastic blog. I get where you come from. Starting to write fairly late in life and feeling you’re maybe not as competent as an ‘academic’ writer.
    It’s good to hear the course is lifting you up in ways you’ve never felt before.
    I’ve started two years ago at the age of fifty. I’m hooked on vss365 and feel writing has enriched my life. Writing in English in stead of Dutch is an extra challenge I’ve set myself. You’re an inspiration and can be proud of what you’ve achieved so far. Good luck with your journey.

  2. This resonated so much with me. You’ve no idea. I’ve been researching going back to college, getting a degree in writing. I completely feel the same way about getting this weight lifted off my shoulder by doing so. This is a wonderful share.

    I’m fairly new to the vss365 community but I so enjoy it. It’s a brilliant idea! Look forward to reading more of your writes.

    1. Hi Mel, Sorry it’s taken so long to respond. Thank you for your kind comments. Lovely to hear that the journey is being shared with someone else. Also, love that vss365 has been good for you. Keep writing.

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