Phase Two

I usually think of Phase One of my writing career to have begun around about September 2004. OK, I’d had software books published before then, and I’d also dabbled a little bit in creative writing, but September 2004 was when I decided to have one last bash at carving out a proper writing career for myself. I started off gently, by re-joining the local writers’ circle and becoming a regular entrant in their competitions. Then I started to reach out further, joining various internet forums and submitting stuff left, right and centre, until slowly I began – in a small way – to make a bit of a name for myself.

BRAG ALERT WARNING: There’s a bit coming up that sounds like I’m bragging. But it’s contextually necessary. Trust me.

If I were to go back a decade in time and tell my ten-years-younger self what had actually transpired in those years between 2004 and 2014, I would have been pretty amazed to hear that I’d actually managed to get three VERY different books accepted by respectable publishers, had one of them (briefly) in WHSmiths’ charts, had the other two reviewed in the national press, had a story read on BBC Radio 4, had the same story read by a bunch of naked women in New York (actually, that’s probably one to save for my 12-year-old self), won several prizes for short stories and poetry, had several poems published (where did THAT come from?), appeared in 40 anthologies, read my work in public on many occasions, had random strangers get in touch to say how much they like my work and so on and so on and so on.


And yet. The thing is, I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I’ve never had any formal training (beyond what I learnt along with everyone else at that writers’ circle and those forums – and don’t get me wrong, I learnt a hell of a lot from them). I’ve never had a mentor. I don’t have an agent. My writing career, such as it is, is a bunch of random events with no underlying logic to it. (Vanessa Gebbie’s interpretation of this as me not wanting to be pigeonholed is far more generous than it deserves.) To be honest, right now, I haven’t the faintest clue as to what I should be writing about. I have a few ideas, sure (I’m very rarely short of them), but they’re currently showing an alarming tendency to self-destruct a few thousand words in. Whether this is because I don’t have the right skills or if it’s simply because I’ve lost confidence in my writing doesn’t really matter. The plain fact is that there’s only one way I’m ever going to find a route upwards and out of this.

I need to go back to school.

So tomorrow I’m off to register for the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. I’m going to be taught how to write by People I Have Heard Of. It could of course all go horribly wrong. I may find it impossible to fit it all in with the day job. I may not even like being taught stuff at my age (it’s been a while, after all, although I was delighted to find out recently that I won’t be the only extra-mature student there). But it may just be the start of something wonderful.

This is the campus, by the way. They have peacocks there and all.

Corsham CourtPhase Two, here we come. Wish me luck.


11 thoughts on “Phase Two

  1. Jonathan — good luck, I hope you really, really enjoy it. I was chatting the other day, saying that when I started writing fiction, I liked that no qualifications were required in advance — but that now, I’ve reached the stage where I’d love to do the Creative Writing MA just for the enjoyment of it, and to take my personal knowledge that step further. The MA doesn’t, however, fit in with being a working mum of small children, so I’ll wait a year or two. I’ll be following your posts with interest, though — please keep us updated!

  2. Many thanks! That’s exactly the process I’ve been through (well, obviously not the being a working mum with two small children bit). And I most certainly will blog about it 🙂

  3. Great stuff, Jon! I think it’s a tremendous step to take. I need to find a way to move from my current phase to the next one as well. I will watch your progress with baited hooks whilst I fish instead of write. Cheers Derek

  4. Cheers, Derek! Hang on, didn’t you write a flash about a hook once? Could be wrong, though – it’s a looooong time since I did the Cafe Doom flash challenge…

  5. Good luck!
    I’ve been having those same wonderings, though without the incredible content of your phase 1, but have yet to decide if it would be right for me, so I will follow your progress with interest.

  6. Good luck, Jon. It looks like a terrific atmosphere for creativity. Rock on, matey.
    I arrive from a far lower level of achievement than you, but I’ve been experiencing exactly the sort of creative plateau you describe. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I have also acted on the ‘back to school’ feeling. Following an 11th hour decision and application, I was yesterday offered a place on the BA Creative Wrting Course at Birkbeck, University of London. I also expect to register tomorrow, and course starts next week. I’m still shell shocked.

    All best.

    PS As far as I know, we have no peacocks, but lot’s of leafy squares. 🙂

  7. That is wonderful news, Oscar! I’m so pleased you’re doing this. Will be fascinating to compare notes 🙂

  8. Thanks, Jon. Yes indeed, notes will be compared at intervals I feel sure. Enjoy. At present my experience is a bit like jumping off the Post Office Tower with my eyes closed because, thanks to my 11th hour decision and acceptance, I’ve missed the induction and all the socialisation, familiarisation stuff. Still, nothing new to me. During my school life I was forever being moved around and dumped into a new school mid-term. But it hasn’t effected me *twitch**blink* 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.