I’ve always wanted to write – to be a writer.
Eighteen months ago I resigned from my job as a Structural Biologist in Cambridge, to move to the North of England and study for an MA in Creative Writing. This felt like a huge life-changing decision, as I sold my house, packed up my worldly goods and set out, together with my three cats, on the long drive north. My friends thought I was insane, although the word they used was ‘brave’.
What made me do it?
I needed a change; a new challenge.
When I joined the company I worked for, it was a small start-up biotech and I was one of the first employees. I’d left a secure job for the excitement of being involved at the beginning, but none of us knew whether we would still be employed after the six months of seed funding ran out. The work was demanding and varied, with new deadlines every day. Fifteen years later, the company was successful and secure, but the pace had slowed, and the demands of the job were different. I began to get restless.
I took singing lessons, art lessons, developed interests in long distance running and open water swimming, but none of these things satisfied me.
I’d been writing for a while, had managed to have a few short stories and poems published, and my first novel had been accepted by a small US publishing company (It was fantasy romance). After careful consideration of my options, I applied for, and was accepted at Lancaster University to study for a full-time campus MA.
I decided to live in Windermere, in the English Lake District, mainly because I thought the cats would like it, but also because of its literary history – William Wordsworth, John Ruskin, Beatrix Potter all lived here – and found a house on top of a hill.
The year of the MA was absolutely inspiring. I met a group of exciting fellow writers from all over the world, was taught by brilliant lecturers, who were also poets, novelists and short story writers, and had the time to explore different forms of writing.
During the course I completed a science fiction novel, set in a dystopian future, had my second fantasy novel accepted for publication and wrote a variety of short stories. I learned to edit and give constructive criticism to my colleagues. It was a fantastic year, and I have never regretted my decision.
My new challenge is to make my writing pay (or to find another job, and my boss told me I’d never work again at my age) in a time of rapidly evolving markets and technology.
If I was presumptuous enough to give advice to anyone, I’d tell them to go for it. Think of ways you can make your dream work. Move towards it, slowly if necessary. I realized, looking back, that that was what I had been doing for years, with the short stories, the writing courses, the local workshop groups and the first attempt at a novel.
Just Do It.
I’m the blonde one with the unsteady mortarboard.
Anne Cleasby lives in the English Lake District and writes fantasy romance under the pseudonym Annalisa Carr
She can be found at http://www.annalisacarr.com