Creative writing is “creative” by its very name. English and creative writing is a course I considered in my teenage years but I’ve settled on Journalism.
This week I spoke to Jo Hooke, a 20-year-old English & Creative Writing student at Aberystwyth University.
Jo is also the ECWS (English and Creative Writing Society) Creative Secretary, so I organise Poetry Slams, Open Mic Nights, Writing Competitions etc.
How did you get into your degree?
When I was younger I actually hated reading, despite coming from a family of avid readers. I would literally cry if I was forced to read. Reading schemes in particular were my worst enemy. However my mum once found Bridget Jones: Over The Edge Of Reason left behind at her place of work and brought it home, praying that I might read it, and I did, and from then on I became hooked to books.
So when it came to what degree I might like to do I knew there was no other choice then English and I have always liked writing stories, while other kids loved colouring in, I would love to create stories about unicorns and all that other stereotypical kid stuff. So if it wasn’t for Helen Fielding, I have no idea where I would be right now, I owe a lot to that lady.
What do you like about your degree/job?
I LOVE ANALYSING BOOKS SO MUCH. I never understood when people claimed that analysing ‘killed books’ for them, it just made them more interesting to me. So just divulging into all these stories and finding out what in particular inspired them is mind blowing to me. I love the creative aspect because I just get to write and get credits for it, it makes you really understand just how hard writing a book is!
I love being a Creative Secretary because I get to hear amazing works from thriving writers, and maybe steal an idea or two, shh. I also love being part of the society, we always have so many opportunities and it’s a great way to mingle with others in my field of study. It also makes you tight with the lectures, all about those contacts y’all!
What are some of the challenges of your degree/job?
It’s so hard to write well! In my first year of study my belief in my writing ability was completely shattered, so much so that I would hate to turn up to workshops and try to pre-empt any flaws in my writing which would just result in no work at all. You really have to have a tough skin when it comes to writing and understand that your writing style is going to be completely different to somebody else’s.
With the ECWS I would say it’s simply time management, you have to do so much with not much time to do it in, as well as juggling a job and a degree. It does help however that my housemates are part of the society too so if I ever have too much to do they’ll always help me out.
What do you think are some of the challenges in the creative sector?
The competition, it’s so hard to get into. You have to refine your writing skills, make sure your portfolio is exactly what they want and be prepared to be unpaid for a while. I’m fortunate enough to live near London and have understanding parents, so I was able to take an unpaid internship in the summer, which is great for experience but still completely unfair for those who don’t have the same support and location I have. Unpaid internships are a massive grey area that need to be sorted out.
How has your degree helped you?
My degree has helped me more than I ever thought it would. My writing has been refined so much, I’ve understood the gravitas of the written word and I’ve gained experience that is priceless. My degree has meant that I’m around people who are as passionate about literature and writing as I am, and that is the best inspiration to work hard, ever.
Why did you pick to work the sector that you work in? Or what sector do you want to work in after you graduate?
The dream would be to blog full time but I don’t think that will happen, and if it does it won’t happen for a long time. Realistically I’m wanting to work as a copywriter, to actually use my degree in my job but anywhere really within the advertising and marketing field. I do not want to work in publishing because I am beyond excited to be able to read what I want to all the time when I finish my degree!
Describe a typical day in your job/degree.
My typical day is probably waking up at 8, desperately reading a book I need to for a seminar later in the day, heading to a lecture, then heading to the library, if I’m good, or going back home and typing up my notes. ALWAYS type up your notes, you’ll thank yourself when it comes to revision. Then maybe heading to a seminar, then afterwards working on a blog post; that could be thinking of ideas, taking photos or actually writing the post itself.
Afterwards it will probably be about 5 and then I’d head to an ECWS meeting, social or one of the events I’ve organised. If you study English & Creative Writing you hardly have any contact hours, all your time will be consumed with reading books, or if I’m procrastinating, reading blog posts, which are super good for your own blog ideas. Seriously you have so much to read all the time and you will procrastinate, all the time.
Any advice for people wanting to get into your sector and/or the creative industry?
If you want to study English & Creative Writing, work hard in you’re A-Levels and make sure it’s your passion. Actually that goes for any degree. If you don’t like you degree to begin with you’ll hate it at the end, so if you don’t like the sound of any degree particularly, don’t do it! There are many other roads to getting a successful career.
First years, build up a portfolio from day one, you need them ALL THE TIME. Experience is vital in this field, start a blog, get a job, join a society, do something that isn’t your degree, employers really admire that.
Also for all you second years, look into getting an internship for the summer, it will help you out so much in the real world and the quicker you apply, the more likely you’re going to get a good, paid internship.
My biggest tip though is: work hard and it will always pay off.
You can follow Jo on Twitter – @theclearlyinane and on her blog here.