“Nothing will work unless you do.” Maya Angelou
I’ve dreamt of being an author since my schooldays but my family tree is littered with agricultural labourers, foundry workers and cannon fodder. My background is working class and I remember hiding behind the settee with Mum and Dad to avoid the rent man we couldn’t pay. In spite of my family’s high hopes for me to break the mould, I left school with virtually no qualifications. There was no internet or social media, and people like me didn’t get to be writers.
By the time I went to see the film Educating Rita in 1983 I had been a waiter, baker and printer and, much like Rita (Julie Waters) who is living a humdrum life with the future mapped out for her, I was deeply disillusioned. During a scene in her local pub where everyone sings a popular song, Rita in voiceover says, “There must be a better song to sing,” and she decides to take an Open University course. It changes her life and gives her choice. I wanted choice and I knew I could do better than my circumstances suggested so I went to Adult Education evening classes and did all my subjects again. Within the space of two years, and eight years after leaving school, I passed seven O-levels (GCSEs) and an A-level.
The thirty-year career that followed was mostly fascinating and rewarding but often draining and with frequent long hours. I met a beautiful lady there with whom I’ve had two gorgeous daughters, and recently shared our 28th wedding anniversary. I also met many interesting people, some of whom became lifelong friends, and I finally earned my own OU degree. But I still dreamt of seeing my book on a shelf one day, even knowing that most writers earned a pittance.
I’d heard of the so-called Literature Mine but spent decades scratching around on the surface instead of hacking chunks from the Word Face. I had tried to write a decent novel in between work, home, volunteer fundraising and studying. I had dabbled with comedy scripts for TV and radio, and drama for stage and screen but had never quite hit on the kind of writing able to elevate what my family called my hobby up to the career level I yearned for it to be. That’s because I simply wasn’t good enough but I had already proved to myself that I could study and improve. As Yoda once said, “Do or do not, there is no try,” so I learned to be better.
By the time I took early retirement in 2015, I had learned a hell of a lot more about the craft of writing fiction (but far from enough) and knew I had the genesis of a decent story. Now I also had more time so I read a lot, attended literary festivals, listened, practiced and tracked down the Literature Mine. My motivation may always have been to be a published author, stemming from an inexplicable need to tell stories, but only through determination (stubbornness?) and perseverance have the long shifts down the Mine paid off.
I’m lucky enough to now have an agent and publishing deal. Job done? No, and it may never be.