Plan B

I had no idea how to illustrate this one ok?

When I was in Year 5 my teacher’s name was Miss Hicks. She was straight out of university and, in retrospect, she was terribly young. Miss Hicks taught me about poetry. It was that year that I wrote my first actually good piece of writing, a poem called ‘So I Could Say Goodbye’ that I wrote for my friend Joh after her grandfather died.
It was that year, with one half-decent poem under my belt, that I decided when I grew up I was going to be a writer. Just like that.
In lots of ways I think I would have come to this realisation by myself, sooner or later. It sounds corny but I was always going to be a writer. It’s not really something I chose. But Miss Hicks was one of the first people who pushed me, who made me think it was possible.
So I knew I wanted to write from a very young age but it was a long time before I really knew what that meant. Writing is such a strange abstract thing that deciding you want to do it is really just the beginning. Is writing even a job? Is “writer” really an option for grown-ups? Grown-ups have real jobs. For years I didn’t know how you could be a writer. It was this strange thing and I was more afraid of it than anything. When it came time to start thinking about uni options, I started thinking about English teaching.  
I have an enormous amount of respect for English teachers. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the encouraging hand of several such teachers. But here’s the thing – I want to be a writer. Not an English teacher. Becoming a teacher was just a vague Plan B that was floating around at the back of my mind. Because you have to have a Plan B don’t you? That’s what they all say. You need to get a day job and keep it up, until such a time as you can support yourself off writing. Then, and only then, can you give up the day job and write full time.
Everything comes back to Sideshowin the end, as so much of my life tends to. I realised an awful lot of things the week I wrote for that show. One of those things was the simple and inevitable fact that I was definitely not going to apply to study and become an English teacher.
Deciding to give up your Plan B isn’t easy. It means enduring an awful lot of condescending chats from well-meaning adults. It means resigning yourself to probably being penniless a bunch of the time. It means rejecting a life of security and stable employment. It means deciding to be unemployed sometimes. It means saying “I don’t really know how to do this”. Because no one does. You don’t just get a degree and then get a job. It isn’t a simple step-by-step way of life. It’s scary and precarious and mystifying.
Honestly? I often wish I was an English teacher.   
This year at TiNA there was a panel about “selling out”. My friend Elizabeth was asked to be on this panel. Earlier this year she got a job working at a finical magazine and so someone thought she’d be a perfect candidate to discuss sacrificing your dreams. Elizabeth was totally baffled by this idea that, by working as a journalist, she had sold out. As far as she was concerned she had a proper job working in a sector of her chosen industry. She’s gaining experience and expertise, without having to “sacrifice” very much at all. (She wrote a great blog post about it which you can find here)
And that’s just it. When you choose writing you choose the whole, terrible beast. There’s all the things people think of when they think “writing” (like books and scripts and plays) but there’s also all the other things. Things like textbooks and contents pages and reports. EVERYTHING with words on it was written by someone. And a lot of those someones got paid.
Writing becomes your one and only plan. You take jobs that maybe aren’t your dream job, but that’s life. You write boring things sometimes. But you’re being paid to write so who cares? You get better at writing if you do it every day. And if you’re being paid to write every day (not matter what it is you’re writing) that can only be a good thing.
I’m not going to beat a path through the tangled mess which is this industry by having a Plan B. I’m going to work at it all the time until I’m there. 
I don’t think this way is for everyone. Plenty of people with Plan Bs have written wonderful things. And maybe they’ve done it with job security and regular income.
But I don’t have a Plan B. And that’s ok too.  

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year