London, late 90s, I arrived as an utter country bumpkin, and it was just as Percy Shelly described.
In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow
At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore
Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more.
Yet in its depth what treasures! You will see
I found that poem on the Cultureur website.
Wrecks and treasures that sums up the writer’s life, maybe all lives?
As a kid I was always dashing off places, peeking around the corner. Ever quietly but always on the move. In London, I could stop and learn and finally, write.
It was probably the thriving metropolis of language and culture that captured my heart; an incredible anonymous landscape of people I’d never met before.
I started my degree part-time at 26 or something to satisfy a curiosity and keep me out of mischief, occasionally. The Open University was a hub of different ages and cultures, and I took a nomadic approach to my subjects; eventually settling on BA Open Degree in Humanities which covered literature, politics, creative writing and economics.
At this time education was still being invested in, and the OU institution was heavily funded. This ended in 2008 with the commencement of student fees. The pricing structure changed and multiplied significantly.
I wonder how the OU has been able to survive; many of the people I studied with would not have been able to afford the courses as they are now offered.
Sometimes the essays flowed, other times, I felt stuck like I didn’t have an answer. The degree was unrelated to anything I did in my day job. It involved a new skillset, and sometimes I was just paralysed by uncertainty and a loud voice in my head saying ‘I can’t do this.’
I felt for the first time a wall of difficulty around parts of my studies. I’d get to a point where I couldn’t move forward with an essay. I couldn’t see a way to complete it; a sense of hopelessness.
But I also knew I had to do it. What were the other options? Giving in? Halfway through the course, halfway through a degree? Giving in to something difficult?
Nah, not this time Gadget.
From this, I learned the process of pushing on with something that feels unachievable because that feeling goes away with each word you put down on the page.
Then, another course, another door opened, and this time it was the door to storytelling. In 2013 I had a year of epic productivity that I’ve never matched.
The course was run at the Faber Academy by revered playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz, and that love of creating stories and a method for getting started has never left.
I was working full time, finishing off a hefty, two-module year at the OU and I started my first play. It was a terrible play, but I finished it, and the characters I began during that course have seen me through a sell-out West End Fringe show and a couple of screenwriting awards.
I’m not done with them either.
Take a look at my Storyteller page for more info about that journey.
Thanks for reading.