I made a monumental decision the other day. I quit the Creative Writing PhD I have been doing for three years now because I felt tangled-up in academia when I just wanted to write. Such a strong desire to write has been a long time coming.
I began writing when I was about seventeen. The desire to write arose out of existential angst, it helped me get to grips with what that thing called reality meant. I felt feeble, inadequate and overwhelmed. I began putting my words into verse and called it poetry. I had spent my entire childhood playing truant from school, achieving nothing, barely able to read and write and yet there I was writing poetry.
Life took over. Presented me with a wife. We moved to France had five children. I was a house-husband for a while, I drove buses in the French Alps, worked in a factory, became a nurse (back in England), created a business building and hosting websites. Got a divorce and remarried. I done two first degrees, a master’s degree and started a PhD – which I have now quit.
During all those adventures I continued to write on and off. I submitted poetry to journals – mostly unsuccessfully – and began dozens of novels which only ever got as far as the first chapter. I had gone past the angst a long time before. Angst was replaced by utter wonder. Nowadays, I sit in front of my computer to write with an overwhelming desire to share my experience of the world.
This ability to just sit and write for no reason other than to share has been a long time coming. It’s what I’ve been waiting for. I dropped the PhD because academia was only ever a tool and it no longer served a purpose for me. That kid I was, who used to wonder around the streets and parks of Aldershot and Farnham waiting for school-time to end so he could go home, could not have imagined he would one day quit an actual PhD. I hated school so much. I hated being herded into a classroom everyday to sit at a desk and be taught. What could I learn in a classroom when life was the other side of the window waiting to be explored?
I love words – I never used to. Now I can see how precious they are. How they are little gems waiting to be turned into sentences. I remain suspicious of numbers though. Anything that claims infallibility is not to be trusted. The world is built on fallibility, not perfection. It is built on desire to share.