I might be middle-class now, but I didn’t go to university until I was twenty-four, and up until then I had never eaten an olive. I didn’t even know what hummus was. It was pretty shocking to get to university (actually the former Brighton Poly) and see sports cars in the students’ car park, parked there by witless, entitled, eighteen-year-olds. Their parents were paying their rent, too, whereas I ended up with a full time job on top of a grant and a loan and a massive overdraft that it took me ten years to pay off, just to get by. I thought university was going to be a cross between a tripped-out day at Glastonbury and French cafe society of the 1920s, and that I would therefore fit right in, what with my love of night-long intellectual discussions, my penchant for recreational drugs, and my rapidly worsening mental illness. In fact, those things – along with being fairly old and not knowing what hummus was – pretty much made university life harder than I ever expected it to be.
I didn’t do a creative writing degree. I didn’t even study English. If I had known I was going to be a writer, maybe I would have done, but at that time I believed that I couldn’t be a writer. All writers were middle-class white men who ate olives every day and bathed in hummus. Writers were not people like me – women, women who had grown up eating pot noodles, women who couldn’t speak French. It took me a long time and a big leap in confidence to recognise that those weren’t actual entry requirements (unless you were French, which I wasn’t.) I could be a writer if I wanted to be. No one was even trying to stop me!
So I did become a writer, and for the past dozen years or so, I have been a writer. But I want to be a better writer, and a more successful writer. And I want writing to be the centre of my life, not just something I do in my spare time. So, in September, I’m going to do an MA in creative writing at Edinburgh Napier University. If you google the course, you’ll see why I want to do it. The focus is on professionalism. There’s no sitting in a circle. It’s all dirty work. And it’s in Edinburgh, which is about as far away from my family as I can get without a passport.
I don’t need a course to learn how to write better. No one does. You learn by reading and writing. But this is an opportunity to make a massive commitment to my writing career, and I’m pretty excited about it. Big change is a big, good thing. Bring it on!