Right now consists mainly of emails. Skype calls. Coffees that make my heart beat too fast and phone calls which make my eyes close.
The moment the work you love gets liked by others is wicked. Jump up in the air, butterfly stomach, status update updated and again. But little did I know that writing which may take a month or two will take a year or two of admin, of accounting, of all those things you left the office because of – but this is what you love, right?
Write, write, write. That’s what the workshops told me. And I did. I do. If I had a word count tool implanted in my thumb it would whisper to me that I write more than ever. Whispering word count tools are the extent of my sci-fi fantasies. What they wouldn’t be sci-fi enough to know, is that less of that word count is creative than when I was penning statistical post-it notes for MPs on files about defence budgets.
I feel blessed to be emailed about my work, to be called, skyped, bought posh tea with sugar stuck to sticks – so it’s not a complaint. Just a warning to those thinking of abandoning their office stationary swindles for long days of writing by the sea. It is your office skills you may end up using more than you thought. And you will probably be absolutely skint for at least 3 years. But even so – DO IT!
Now, this is a paragraph or two entirely unrelated to the last, but as I’m weeks late with this post I just want to get it all out there. So, who wants to do a rolling 20 year documentary on what happens to writing workshop participants after their course? Yep, didn’t think there’d be many takers or many viewers on that – but nevertheless, there is a conundrum that I am finding strange. During my past 3 years of creative writing, I’ve attended a massive number of writing workshops – from one day extravaganzas with stars of spoken word, to 6 week ball-breakers with theatrical geniuses. And then a good few of those random ones where you feel like your general tolerance for humankind is being divinely tested and just before you die, you will remember what that day felt like and realise you’ve been through this shit before, so everyone should stop bawling, you’ll be fine – at least this time you won’t have to hang around to wait for the bus together. Anyway – there has been one whopping great truth in all of these workshops. There have been double (at least) the amount of females to males. Not so peculiar you might think, surely the arts (like cooking, hairdressing, cleaning etc) are thought to be more ‘girly’. Funny then, that males seem to dominate all of the above (Jamie Oliver, Vidal Sassoon, Mr Muscle to name but a few). As for the UK theatre scene – it is widely regarded as one of the best in the world and yet only 17 %of plays put on in this country are by women. The National Theatre (the theatre of the nation, the nation which is actually made up of more women than men) didn’t put a play by a woman on the main stage until 2008!! The poetry scene (both page and stage) is bursting with brilliant female voices, yet look at the line-ups at any major event and you will find a huge majority of male names. As you will in comedy, business, politics and in so much else. Carol Ann Duffy is the first female Poet Laureate, so things are obviously changing. But not fast enough. It will take 100 years at the rate we’re going to acheive gender parity in the UK government, only 5 out of 23 cabinet members are women. 78 % of newspaper articles are written by men, only 14% of FTSE 100 Directors are women. There are only two female editors of national newspapers. Women still only make up 9% of primary protagonists in film and TV (Sources: Guardian/Fawcett Society).
Art is a place to challenge these shocking statistics and lead the way in making 51 %of the population represented. Women are out there- workshopping it, rocking it, breaking through. Let’s support them – try reading a book by a name that has been brave enough to not just put initials on the front in order to be masculinised. Try asking your theatres when they are putting on some plays by women. Let’s make the UK arts world truly as diverse as it claims to be. I’m definitely on it, after I’ve sent these emails.
About The Author
Dry Ice at The Bush: 8-12 May (8/9 sold out): Tickets
Zainab Chloe Katya at Latitude Festival, Suffolk: Tickets
One Hour Only at Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival: 2-26 August: Tickets