Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A new direction or not?

I have been mulling things over this summer. Do I need to do something completely different? Is it time to get more serious and work towards a 'proper job'? My inner gremlin has been bullying me and telling me that I'm not really a writer at all. It has been telling me that I'm wasting my time trying to write a novel when there's little chance of getting published and that I should be working towards something more useful and lucrative in the long term.

After a lot of brain storming I decided that studying for a degree in psychology would be a good idea. After all, the human mind is fascinating, and I fancied doing something 'sciency'. A new departure. At least it would silence those who thought I was idling my time away at home. I could become a qualified psychotherapist. I quite liked the idea of going out to work, meeting people, listening to them and trying to help with their mental problems and emotional issues. Or did I?

I applied for a distance learning BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Psychology with Anglia Ruskin University and got accepted. My admissions tutor also sent my application to Derby University's Psychology BSc (Hons) degree course where you automatically get accredited by The British Psychological Society (however this course is £1000 a year more expensive). I got an unconditional acceptance from Derby as well. Great. Or was it?

I'm now having serious doubts about all this. The courses are expensive, and I can only just about afford it. Do I pursue a career in writing and work harder at it? Or do I learn a completely new set of skills? This is my current dilemma. Time for some serious decision making!


Sherri said...

It's a big commitment of time and money if you're not sure. Is there any way you could find out more about life as a psychotherapist before committing? Maybe shadowing a professional for a while?

Things can look very different from the outside and the reality can often be not as you expected.

I also get the feeling from your post that you feel you 'ought' to be doing something else rather than necessarily wanting to. If I'm wrong, fine. Just don't let other people's opinions on you as a writer influence you too much.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

Joanna said...

I wish you the very best of luck with making your decision. I hope you choose to go whichever way your heart tells you. And that's sure to be the right direction.

JohnMac said...

If only we had a 'you're making a good decision' indicator (who designed humans, for goodness sake!).

As an armchair psychologist, I don't think you're committed to the degree, because you've not felt that vocational call (yet) - so I guess I agree with Bernadette in that respect.

I've little writing experience, but I did like Stephen King's 'On Writing'. You have a job; you're a writer - it's like being a pipe layer (his analogy, not mine).

I guess the hard part is treating it like a job - regular, routine, unglamorous and hard graft.

Not sure this helps, but perhaps it's more satisfying to be an aspiring, if unpublished novelist than a miserable psychotherapist...?

Jo said...

What brilliant advice, thank you! John and Bernadette, I'm sure you're right about my lack of commitment in the psychology department! And John, you're spot on about treating writing like a job. I realised yesterday that I had to do just that, so sat down at the kitchen table and pretended I was 'studying' to be a novelist; reading a 'how to' book, making notes, using index cards to map out further scenes in my novel and writing a bit more of my novel on the computer. It all felt most satisfying and enjoyable. Being a writer is my job. I have followed my heart, Joanna!

Joanna said...

I'm so so glad for you. I thought John and Bernadette's advice was perfect.

I sit at my table with my writing for the entire time the girls are at school. I feel just as professional as if I were in an office in town. I may not bring in much money, but I'm very happy and, at the age of fifty, I'm finally doing what I love. And that's enough to justify every second spent doing it.

You've made a wise choice. Enjoy every moment.

JO said...

Before you make a decision, I suggest you explore the road from psychology to psychotherapy - it's long, tortuous and expensive. Psychology will give you a thorough understanding of human behaviour; then you will need additional training, including lengthy therapy yourself, to look at the machinations of the internal world. Rewarding? yes, hugely - but only if you are committed from the outset.

Sorry if this sounds gloomy - it's meant to be helpful.

Good luck!

Sherri said...

I'm pleased you have made a decision you're happy with and wish you every success with it.

JohnMac said...

Great news Jo - sounds like you've arrived a good outcome for you!

I do recommend the Stephen King book to all budding writers; I found it very powerful, even if you're not looking to write in his particular genre.

One thing that always dissuaded me from writing was comparing my hackery to the finished article by those infinitely more talented.

I read 'Regeneration' and tracked this down - it's an early draft of Wilfred Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth". It's not terribly good, is it?


Just goes to show that great poetry or prose doesn't just spring unbidden from even a gifted writer's pen.

Good luck!