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Writing half an hour a day, every day

– Writing about whatever I feel like, spending half an hour a day doing so –

I’ve taken this idea from Stephen Downes, who has a blog where he writes for half an hour a day about anything he wants to. I’ve long admired the idea, and have also enjoyed what Stephen has written over the years, thinking this was something I would like to do, but never got round to starting. Well, this is me taking the plunge. Let’s see if I can stick to it.

I love writing. It gives me great pleasure whenever I do it, and I have long told me that I need to spend more time doing it. I’ve written stuff all my life. When I was young, I remember putting together booklets on holiday in Cornwall, sharing it with my family, and being thrilled at the reaction. That was probably the seed for me wantging to write.

When I was a teenager, I developed the idea that I wanted to be a journalist, and actually spent a week doing work experience on a local newspaper, the Gateshead Post, which appears to have closed in 2003. Most of that week was spent in the office, and I was shown to a desk and given clerical jobs to do, such as filing newspaper cuttings, making tea, etc. It was very uninspiring, and clearly the staff didn’t want to spend their time babysitting me. However, on the last day, one of the reporters took me out with him, and I got a real taste of what being a journalist could be. We went to court, sitting in on a burglary case, so he could write it up, and then visited the wife of a man who had recently died (my memory is sketchy of what actually happened, though I think it was linked to the burglary case) for an interview. I was very impressed how the reporter was able to interview the woman and was able to get a recent photogrph from her, to publish alongside the story, while being sensitive to her feelings. This was fascinating, and I was hooked. I knew then that I wanted to be a journalist.

So, what happened? In my final year at university, I wasn’t so sure I could cut it as a journalist. I felt I didn’t have what it needed. I was shy and reserved, and felt this would inhibit me from being able to do the job, certainly the job as a reporter. I got to know that one of my fellow students at that time was already working as a freelance reporter for a national newspaper while at the university (I think he was writing for the Sun), and he was very different from me. Nevertheless, I volunteered in my final year to work on  London Student newspaper, feeling that this would give me an insight into the job and also some experience that would be useful should I decide to pursue the career. I was thrilled when my first report was published, a report on a sports game result which, although it was about 100 words long, was nonetheless, a start. At an editorial meeting, I took on the writing assignment of a more substantial article about grafitti in student toilets, along with another student (the nature of the article required a female and male to be able to compare grafitti in different bathrooms), and that’s where it ended. I’ll leave the details for another time, just to say I never went back to London Student.

A contact of one of my flatmates, a freelance journalist who was preparing to launch a free newspaper paid for by advertisements, led to a number of meetings as I was nearing graduation, and a job offer. He even paid me a small retainer after I graduated, unable to start the newspaper due to lack of funding. The project didn’t come to fruition, and I gave up on the ide of journalism, starting to temp to earn money, and being dragged in a very different direction.

I didn’t give up on writing, though. I decided that fiction was what I wanted to write. However, my time’s up, so I’ll leave that story for the next half-hour.