BA Media Arts (2007), Freelance Writer
Why did you choose Royal Holloway for your degree?
It was an easy decision as soon as I walked in through the gates and saw the Founders Building for the first time; I knew that Royal Holloway was where I wanted to spend the next three years. I loved the campus, the friendliness of everything and the small community feel, plus it had great links to London so I could go into the city whenever I wanted – I liked the comfort and security of the campus with the big city in the background.
The degree programme was also excellent and the prospect of making films and also spending time really learning about film history and theory was what grabbed me.
How did your time at Royal Holloway help your future career )?
Like the majority of my classmates I assumed I’d end up directing feature films a few years after I graduated. This seemed like the obvious natural progression of the course and that I’d leave Egham and fly straight to Hollywood. I think it took me about three weeks to realise that I might not need the flights just yet and that instead I’d be better off simply trying to learn everything I could, which is easy when the course is so broad. I’ve since used so many of those skills in my career, whether it was editing a short film or just the research skills you gain from a degree programme, though for me it was the 'Screenwriting' focus I took in the second and third years which really helped me out – it was with this that I got to study the writing process and storytelling and that’s had the biggest impact.
As I now get paid to write about beer and food my extra-curricular activities are probably fairly obvious! It was at university that I got interested in what I ate and drank and spent most of the three years trying to find the most delicious things I could. By the time I graduated, my love of eating and drinking had combined with my love of storytelling.
What do you do now and what advice would you give to anyone thinking about a career in your sector?
I’m a freelance writer and also do lots of other things like helping breweries with their marketing and social media, I run beer education classes, consult with pubs and bars. There’s a glamour to writing professionally, I think, but the reality is not exactly as many people think; it’s difficult to earn a great salary from it. Of my earnings, perhaps only 25% comes from actually writing, the rest is from talking and teaching or more ‘day job’ roles like working in brewery offices. It means that someone with a desire to earn money from journalism or writing must also have other skills which they can use, plus a determination to work hard.
I started by writing a blog, this turned into magazine articles, then into a book and then a second book; I just wrote as much as I could and tried to get better. And that’s the best advice I can give to anyone interested in being a writer: simply read and write as much as possible. Writing is like any skill and the more you practice it the better you become.