I've got some news to share today. For the first time in six years, I am about to become a full-time writer again. This is something I've known about for a while, but I've saved this blog post until today so that I could explain properly.
Writing full-time is an unusual step. As I've mentioned before, I've never chosen to go full-time, though I've had the opportunity. To some people this probably seems slightly insane. Why would anyone not want to spend their days working from home in their dressing-gown, making things up and writing them down (as Neil Gaiman puts it)? The truth is, I've always done other things alongside writing, and always chosen to. This was partly because I learned to write that way, in the gaps between the rest of life. And even when I began writing professionally, I felt I was too young to stop learning altogether, so I went on to get my A-levels part-time - and then I realised I could study other writers' books for three years and that this might be quite a good idea, so after another full-time writing stint I went on to university. Which turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made. There, I got quite passionate about teaching, and that led me to train and start work as an English and literacy teacher. There's a strong tradition of writers who have had and benefited from other jobs, which this article by Robert McCrum sums up perfectly:
'There is a lot to be said for writers who don't just write. The literary press is full of the life and work of professional writers, but the English literary tradition is sustained by men and women who did not give up the day job, and led double lives.'
Recently, I've been working half the time as a teacher and half the time as a writer. While the teaching has crept over into my writing days more times than I can count, the balance has been manageable enough to complete The Heart at War. The school where I have been working this year is a fantastic place, full of some of the best people I've met. In fact, I don't think I've ever worked with a kinder group of colleagues or a more interesting group of students. There's just one problem - it's too far away from home, by about 30 miles. I began to realise this as the school year went on, and had to make a tough decision. So today I found myself reluctantly saying goodbye to the students who I've got to know over the past year. This is also why I'm only sharing the news now: simply put, I didn't think it was right to tell anyone else before I told them. (They were positive and very understanding about it, once I promised to visit, so all is well as it turns out.)
When I leave on Friday, rather than continuing to balance writing with other work, it will be to concentrate full-time on writing. Maybe my perspective has changed over the last few years, but what might once have looked to me like a frightening ocean of time and blank pages began to look like an opportunity. I've got a few ideas for a new book and I know that they are ambitious, different to what I've done before, and need time and space to develop. I decided, during the last few months, that I wanted to give them that time and space.
So what does writing full-time mean? Here are a few things I hope it means:
- More books: I'm looking forward, after a few weeks' holiday, to picking up the threads of various ideas.
- More time to talk to readers: something I've always enjoyed, and want to spend more time doing.
- More time to actually meet readers (starting on the 9th-11th August, when I'll be attending Nine Worlds Convention, my first public event as a writer for a very long time!)
- More reading time, which is naturally something a writer can never get enough of.
- And finally, I might actually stop being terrible at playing the guitar... though somehow I don't think my lack of skill has much to do with my busy lifestyle, unfortunately. Still, I'll try.
That's all for now. Thanks, as ever, for your support - it's heartening to be in touch with other readers and writers as I start this new stage of my writing career
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