Feel like I've been saying this for a while, but the end really is nigh for my screenwriting MA course. We've got a final in-class session this afternoon, and could well get the marks for our final pieces of coursework today. Those who graduate will have the chance to collect their piece of paper come November, while wearing a daft hat and ill-fitting gown of unbecoming colours. [Can I just say one thing about Joseph's amazing technicolour dreamcoat? It's fuck ugly. Phew, glad to get that off my chest. Moving on...] And that's it. Student life is over. Except I'm still paying for my tuition, with the last £263 coming out of my bank account next month.
Before I started the MA I was making a comfortable living writing licensed genre tie-in novels and audio dramas, comic books and some journalism. Two years I'm making half what I was, and much of the work I had in 2005 has dried up. Partly that's due to neglect, as I've been focused on the MA and other learning opportunities. Partly it's the inevitable ebb and flow of available work. When you're fully focused on a freelance career, you nurture existing clients and constantly search for fresh opportunities to replace jobs that come to the end of their lifecycle.
Haven't had much time for nurturing and even less for finding fresh opportunities, but that was my choice. The financial consequences haven't been pretty, and will probably take several years to recover. I haven't paid a penny into my pension scheme these past two years, but I'd like to believe all the time, money and effort I've invested in the MA and related activities have been a different kind of investment in my future. Of course, that could well be self delusion, time will tell.
Leaving aside money-related stresses [not easy, but necessary to remain sane], I've done what I set out to do two years ago. Barring some disaster on my final project, I'll have gotten an MA. I've pushed myself well beyond my comfort zone as a writer, forcing myself to try new things. I've fallen flat on my face plenty of times and had no end of rejections [finally got my thanks but no thanks letter from River City this week], but I've also made some breakthroughs.
Most importantly of all, I'm a better writer than I was two years ago. No longer am I content to shit something out that's simply fit for purpose. There are times when I tie myself in knots fretting about themes and subtext and all that stuff, when such considerations actively impede my ability to do what I do best: tell stories. But learning about more about these elements and how they can enrich the stories I tell is still a positive step. If nothing else, the MA has sharpened my writing tools. And for that I'm grateful.