Ten Years a Writer

September 18th 2006 was my first day as an agency-based online news correspondent - my first day as a professional writer.

It was not, of course, my first day of being a writer at all; I'm 33 now and have been writing stories for close to 30 years. I taught myself to read before anyone else knew I could do it, and by the end of infants school there was a hand-stitched copy of one of my stories in the classroom's mini-library area.

You might imagine I've had a clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life, based on that, but it hasn't been easy. At A-level there were no creative writing classes, no after-school writing clubs, and it was only a last-minute decision that saw me switch from Geography to English Language.

At university I didn't make that decision in time, and wasted two years studying Physics before I realised I needed to switch. In a sense I'm glad of that, as the BA Language, Literacy & Communication degree programme I ended up studying was fantastic and I use what I learned from it every day in my writing and in life in general.

Charlotte Woods gave me the opportunity to join the programme, and Steve Jones - perhaps more than anyone in my further and higher education - made me feel like I had something special. Alex Baratta and the incomparable Ludovica Serratrice (probably the cleverest person I've ever met, and far far better at English grammar than I will ever be) made learning feel worth it again after years of it feeling like a chore. Three years taught me most of what I now value and built my confidence hugely - and gave me everything I needed to start writing as a profession.

My agency days weren't always easy either, as many of you already know. The first year or two were fantastic though. The office was quite new, and there was a real sense of building something together. John Mills knocked the last rough edges off of my writing, and Richard Pattinson offered moral support when it was needed. Both were (and still are) legends; neither will be matched in my career. Several of my favourite people are former colleagues from those days, and I'll always be grateful for knowing just how productive I can be when facing an impossible task against an unreasonable deadline.

I lasted (almost) five years - until June 30th 2011 - and have been self-employed since July 1st of that year, which means my five-year freelancerversary passed this summer. But today feels much more important: proof that whether employed or self-employed, permanent or contracting, I've got what it takes to flourish as a writer, a jobbing word-merchant for hire.

This has been a completely self-indulgent post because, after all, I'll only have maybe four or five decade anniversaries (I'm sure there's a specific word for that...) during my career, and this is my first. Although if I'm honest, I still sometimes miss making Chicken McSandwiches four days a week instead.

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