Writers come from all walks of life, and there is some kind of writer in all of us. That’s not to say that everyone has the technical skill to build a novel or stage a play, but I believe “writing” is a lot more that just words on a page. Indeed, when I start writing something new, it can be many months before I even begin to get words down on paper in any way that resembles “writing” to other people.
We are all story-tellers in our own way, and we have our own stories to tell.
It’s been a long journey, coming to a stage where I am confident enough to call myself a “writer” by profession, even though I have been writing for many years. In some senses, it still feels odd to look at it as a profession or a job. But I guess it is all about reaching that point where what you know you can do with words is what ends up getting people to pay you for doing it.
Every journey needs a road – or a path, or mud-track, or even just a huge field. My road has been a mixture of them all. Some parts have been smoother than others, and indeed some stages have felt almost impassable at times. I spent 18 months unemployed and desperately looking for work, and as much as that might have seemed like a brick wall at the time, I certainly learnt how to write a damn good CV!
After studying at University I went on to be a Drama teacher for a fair few years. Writing featured in that for me because I would often prefer to quickly write my own scripts for lessons rather than spend hours trawling through resource books. I also set up theatre writing groups and wrote my own school shows. It was during my first teaching post that I wrote my first full-scale musical.
However, after a few too many speed-bumps along the road of education, I had to take a new direction, and spent a number of years balancing supply teaching with working more in theatre. I managed to get experience working with a new, developing venue in Birmingham and, continuing my love for writing, I finally staged my play No Smoke as part of a local fringe festival.
Every journey has its accidents, its jolts, and its times of testing. For me there were two significant ones. In 2008 I was falsely accused of about the worst crime you can be accused of, especially since it involved children. It was a malicious allegation that grew out a mere threat made by a child, and then lost control when it got into the hands of a vindictive head teacher. However, justice was mostly done and no prosecution happened – the Police saw through the allegation. The incident inspired the play “No Smoke” but it took four years until I could even begin to write that.
The second crash was to come later when I finally walked away from teaching for good. Now, that should have been an amazingly freeing experience, and in a way it was, but it also led to being unemployed for 18 months. I hadn’t planned that! Nor had I planned being stuck in the rut of being too qualified for basic jobs; not qualified enough for better jobs I knew I could do, but had wasted too many years in teaching.