In March, winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward. Something holds and something pulls inside of us too.
Jean Hersey (1967), The Shape of a Year
The above quote makes me think of an archer, pulling and holding back an arrow, before releasing to a target. That tension created in the holding back is necessary for the successful trajectory of the arrow, so that it makes its journey with enough kinetic force. It’s from a book about gardening. But it got me thinking.
And as the sun rises and sets, spring happens regardless of human mechanations.
‘What are you getting at here, Anya?’ I hear you ask.
Come with me on a journey back in time… waaay back to autumn 2019, those innocent, pre-plague days.
This particular mortal was coming to the tail end of serving two years on the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) Council (then SfEP) as its members’ professional development director.
And a grassroots charity called Arts Emergency kept popping up on my social media feed.
If you’ve never heard of it… it’s a charity that helps young people get a fair start in arts and humanities careers, including the notoriously posh, pale and priviledged publishing industry.
As a fairly posh, pale and priviledged person myself, who once worked in-house for various publishers before thriving as a self-employed human, volunteering as a mentor for this charity during the difficult days of
🦠2020🦠 was a thoroughly inspiring experience.
As well as feeling proud, I was slightly wistful as my mentee passed their A-Levels and went off to study a Creative Writing and English Literature Batchelor’s degree at a university on the south coast of England…
Creative writing degrees just weren’t an option some twenty-odd years back when I first went to university in 2000. I’d applied to study for a Batchelor’s in English Literature at the University of Roehampton, got in as a ‘mature student’ (of twenty-two) and was fortunate enough to find a studio flat in Barnes for myself with a monthly rent that fell just within my student loan budget (and was cheaper than if I’d lived in a house share on the nearby run-down Roehampton council estate).
Just HOW lucky is that?!
It wasn’t easy though. I didn’t have any A-Levels. All I had was chronic and, at times, debilitating anxiety, an Honours Diploma in Freelance Feature Writing (from The London School of Journalism, distance learning), one published article, and a resolve to complete that course.
Food, books, clothes, going out, were all things I paid for myself from the wages earnt from working in a wine shop and then the nearby WWT London Wetland Centre. There I tweaked shop displays of cuddly stuffed creatures, and served tickets and packets of seeds to the Barnes locals (and occasionally, Chris Packham).
And it felt like being in a fight with Mike Tyson sticking to the straight and narrow disciplines of academia when I had this strange, incurable urge… to write – by the light of a silvery full moon, natch – other things.
Articles. Lyrics. Reviews. Interviews. Labels for jars of lentils going stale on my kitchen shelf. Anything.
Anyway, fast forward to October 2020. I applied for a Master’s degree in Creative Writing through University of Hull Online, which I’ve recently completed (and passed, final grade still TBC – while still working freelance, too.
It’s never too late to try something new.
And three years later, here I am again, looking forward to meeting my Arts Emergency mentee for 2023.