Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tales from the trenches

It's nearly two years since I finished my MA in screenwriting. Met up with two of my former classmates yesterday for a natter, the sharing of war stories from the trenches of freelance writing and tips about opportunities for each other's work. There are times when you get in a room full of writers and all you see around you is competition. Happily, there are other gatherings were those around you are a potential support network.

Each of us yesterday had tales of getting mucked about, ripped off or frustrated by promises and possibilities that have come to nowt. Given the choice, I suspect none of us would enter into a collaboration or writing gig without securing a signed contract first. Reality and experience tells us that rarely happens [although most book publishers and the BBC are pretty vigilant about maintaining a clean paper trail for writers].

None of our class has achieved massive success as yet [or if they have, they've kept it well quiet]. Plenty of them have secured paid writing jobs. Lots have seen short film scripts made. Others have pursued broadcast by internet for their efforts, or worked the festival circuit to limited acclaim. Some have achieved success writing in other media, such as novels, plays, radio drama and computer games. Some have even won prizes.

The piece of paper we received upon graduation, that was perhaps the least important part of the MA experience. What counted was what we learned, the people we met, the friends we made, the contacts we formed, the scripts we wrote, the feedback we received, the opportunities we had to experiment - and fall flat on our faces, at times - in a friendly environment. Those are the things that remain, that linger, that matter.

In seven weeks I'll be helping teach a new creative writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. We'll have a class full of students eager to learn, to find out more about writing, the industry and themselves. No doubt there'll have mis-steps, as few new ventures accelerate from a standing start without hitting the occasional bump in the metaphorical road. But it'll be an adventure, hopefully a rewarding one.

Right now, I have no idea what effect it'll have on my writing or my career. I'm determined to keep pursuing the ambition of screenwriting TV drama. No doubt there'll be days when teaching will drain large chunks of creativity away. But it should also have an energising effect, making me re-think my own methods, tics and writing techniques. Time will tell. In the meantime, I've got modules handbooks to prepare. Onwards!


Laura Anderson said...

Nice post! I'm sure the teaching will have nothing but a positive effect on your writing, even if your output might slow a bit at first. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in one of your classes :-)

Anonymous said...

It was great to catch up with both of you yesterday. Good idea about the fly on the wall, Laura. I'll be the one next to you, I would learn loads.


M J said...

Good luck with the course - sounds fascinating!