I recently left my job with Aberdeen City Council’s Creative Learning team after three years. I’ve been very lucky to have this part-time job alongside my writing career as it’s been flexible, creative and above all, lots of fun! When I first started, I was a tad naive to the working world having been a full-time student for 8 years... But I soon found my feet and learned that my creative skills didn't have to just be expressed through creative writing and facilitating workshops, but that creative approaches could be used in all aspects of working with others (including spicing up work meetings that would otherwise be very dull!).
As well as working on creative projects in schools, such as dressing up as the Doric Gruffalo and a circus ringmaster for the team’s Arts Across Learning Festival, much of my work was focused around supporting creatives in Aberdeen to develop their professional careers, whether that be through 1-1 advice sessions or longer term development programmes like Sustaining Life as a Creative (SLAAC). This programme involves bringing a mixture of creatives from across the city to work together on things like collaboration, application writing, networking, building websites, CVs and their own personal journeys, particularly building their confidence and resilience to deal with the realities of a creative career. Before working for Creative Learning I took part in the pilot version of the programme and it definitely polished my practice and gave me a wider, more multi-disciplinary network which still benefits me to this day, so it was great to go on to help support two versions of the programme.
One of the great benefits of the job was getting to develop my own programme for emerging and established writers called The Writers’ Room, which was very much based around the SLAAC concept. I’ve blogged about the first version before, but I got to run the programme twice, and from it now have a great group of writers across Aberdeen and shire (and beyond) who are passionate about developing their writing careers and supporting each other with their creative work. I’ll be forever grateful that the job allowed me to develop a new group of friends with similar interests, as well as make an impact on the writing scene around me!
The second Writers’ Room programme was funded and supported by Creative Scotland as part of the 2017 Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship which I applied for on the team’s behalf; we were lucky enough to be selected and go on to host the highly talent playwright Morna Young. While we supported Morna to write five plays (she was only obligated to write one!), including ‘Aye, Elvis’, a hit at this year’s Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, I learnt a lot from Morna about what it takes to make it at the mid-career level – her drive and determination is very inspiring and she deserves all the success she’s had of late, including a three-month residency in New Zealand with Magnetic North. I look forward to seeing the other four plays go on to be produced and performed in the future.
After three years with Creative Learning, I decided now was the right time to put all my energy into my own writing career. This involves three months’ full-time focus on a novel inspired by the life and career of fashion designer Bill Gibb which I’ve been researching for since the start of this year; the project has also earned me one of this year’s Scottish Book Trust’s 2018 Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowships. This writing time will culminate with my RLS residency in Grez-sur-Loing in France throughout all of November. As a freelancer, the prospect of not having consistent paid work is always a bit daunting, but I’ve got to take the advice I’ve been dishing out for the past three years to other creatives and go forth with confidence that it’s the right choice for my career right now. (But fingers crossed I get a job post-November, aye...). One thing I'll definitely miss is my lovely and hilarious colleagues who have all taught me so much – I wish the team all the best for the future.
I’ve been a little behind with blogging with all the changes of late, but I’ll be sure to post about the RLS Fellowship, my Muriel Spark 100 project and mentoring for Queer Words Project Scotland throughout the rest of the year.