Last week, I came home to news of The Sunday Tribune’s financial difficulties. The vast majority of my Twitter stream alternated between tweets about The Tribune and others about the impending closure of two Waterstone’s outlets in Dublin. While both pieces of news were as bad as each other, and reminded us of the real effect of this recession, the Tribune story struck more of a chord with me.
Not a week goes by anymore without someone asking me what I put down on my CAO or what I want to do with my life. I usually babble on for a minute or so about how I was torn between choosing a science course and a humanities course, but eventually disclose the dream of one day getting paid to write.
Each and every time I answer this question I ask myself where this whole journalism idea came from. The only relative of mine who ever wrote anything was my dad’s second cousin, who published two novels for pre-teens, along with a primary school textbook and a school play. So writing’s not exactly in my blood..
It’s hard to pinpoint when I first got this dream of being a journalist into my head. I suppose I always liked writing. Many a time as a young wan I tried writing a book, and for a few years there kept a diary religiously.
Being editor of the school magazine in TY is probably what made me seriously consider a career in publishing or the media. There were, of course, other people involved with the magazine, and there’s no way it would have ever happened without them, but I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t do a hell of a lot of work to get that magazine printed and sent off to The Irish Times before the deadline for the competition closed.
Having been taught the basics of InDesign by an art teacher in school, I spent my mid-term painstakingly putting the magazine together, bit by bit, before flying off to Paris for a school trip. Last year was much the same, only Paris was replaced by an even better trip to London. In some ways, though, last year’s magazine was a more influential experience. It’s hard to say which magazine was better overall, but if I had to pick one, I’d probably choose last year’s ‘Snap!’ While ‘Ink’ from the previous year was impressive, the bit of experience we had shone through in ‘Snap!’ Above all, I put together every single page of it, and maybe even more importantly wrote an award-winning article about Plugd’s closure.
I know that sounds quite conceited but it’s not. If I could write about Plugd for the rest of my life, then my articles would all be pretty good. It’s easy and enjoyable to write about something you know very well and love even more. And as much as this would be a fabulous career, I don’t think it’s very feasible. Having said that, if you know someone who’d like to hire someone (i.e. me) to write a regular column about Plugd, then do pass on my details.
I remember going to the school magazine awards in the Science Gallery in Trinity in TY. I think it was Shane Hegarty of the Times who told us a story of how his career in publishing started when he put together his 6th year yearbook. It was a nice story to hear because it reminded me a bit of myself, only my ‘career’ started even earlier, in 6th class when I designed the cover of out primary school yearbook. And it wasn’t that I was the only one willing to do it, because everyone in the class had to do one, and then there was a vote among the class. If, one day, I become a mighty successful journalist, this will be my story of my beginnings in journalism. I could embellish it a bit though, and claim that I knew from that very moment it was all I ever wanted to do. How romantic..
Now though, I’m eighteen and need to be a bit more realistic about job opportunities. I could have done the sensible thing and went for Medicine, but when have I ever done the sensible thing? I probably should be contributing to this whole smart economy lark, but instead I’m aiming for the most insecure career possible.
It worries me that I’ll spend my life writing the odd article here and there, struggling to find permanent work or make ends meet. I’m scared that I’ll regret choosing this airy-fairy future over a solid, well-payed, highly-sought-after job. The current vogue of blaming the Irish Government for everything doesn’t really apply here, unfortunately enough. The newspaper industry was changing long before the IMF arrived in the country, so I can’t go shouting at politicians who come canvassing to the door that they’ve ruined my chances of being a journalist. That’s a bit annoying really, because it would have been nice to have someone to blame.
Last June I spent one amazing week working with the Irish Times, and I’d have given anything to stay there and not have to come home and face the raucous music that is the Leaving Cert. When I do imagine my future self, it’s not in a hospital or a lab but somewhere else, less concrete, but there’s usually a notebook in hand or laptop in front of me.
I don’t think I’m in any way gifted at writing or English which sometimes make me reconsider this whole ‘plan’, if you can even call it that. Yes, I’m well able to ramble on and successfully bullshit my way through an exam, but this doesn’t mean I’ll be pumping out literary masterpieces any time soon. Or any time at all.
I may be deluding myself. More than maybe, I’m probably deluding myself. But I think I’ve got to at least try to achieve the dream first, and if it doesn’t work out, I can always marry a farmer…