I saw on Twitter this morning that students are graduating from the University of South Wales today. If you’re one of them, I wish you all the luck in the world.
Twenty-four years ago, on a sunny day in 1993, I graduated from USW – although back then, it was known as the University of Glamorgan. I wore a mortarboard and gown, and climbed up on stage to receive my BA (hons) in Humanities.
I was twenty-two years old, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Actually, that’s not strictly true. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I had no idea how to go about it, and no expectation I’d be able to make a living from the angsty poems and overly-melodramatic short stories I’d been churning out for the creative writing classes I’d taken as part of my degree.
As a result, I spent the rest of my twenties in a series of dead-end call centre jobs, and I didn’t really get my ass into gear and start writing seriously until I reached thirty, and realised it was time to stop talking about being a writer, and actually write something.
My first novel was published in 2010, the year I turned forty. Since then, I’ve written six more, plus a multitude of short stories. But I feel I left things a bit late. I could have written a lot more if I’d knuckled down when I left university, rather than letting everything drift for so many years.
So, that’s my advice to you. If you have a dream – if you want to be a writer, artist, singer, actor or whatever – don’t wait. Don’t waste the next ten years promising you’ll get around to your dream once you’ve established yourself in a more respectable job. Don’t wither on the vine. Go out there and grab the world by the throat.
If you want to be a writer, declare to the world that you are a writer. Start thinking as a writer would think. React to situations the way a writer would. The only way to achieve your dream is to live it. Do what you have to in order to earn money, but don’t let it define you. If you get a job in a bank, don’t think of yourself as a banker who writes on the side, think of yourself as a writer who is a banker on the side. Dedicate yourself to your craft, and do one thing every day to bring success one step closer.
Read and memorise The Artist’s Prayer.
Trust me, the next ten years are going to pass at an incredible rate. Make the most of them.
All the best,
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