What Being A Working-Class Writer Means To Me

It’s nothing about money and it’s everything about money. It’s eating arctic roll and thinking Vienetta is a fancy pudding and having your Christmas presents put into a large box to make them feel more special. It’s thinking fish only comes with chips or in a frozen rectangle with a packet of parsley sauce. It’s wanting all the things on the telly but knowing better than to ask for them. It’s never having Kickers or Fruit of the Loom or Nike and Mum joking about how she bought this cardigan fifteen years ago and she hasn’t bought a new one yet.

It’s the bottom branch of the Christmas tree sellotaped back on where the cat broke it and staying in school during Activities Week and painting the PE changing rooms and making stuff with clay because it was free while your friends go on the France trip. It’s only being able to have recorder and violin lessons because they were free and Mum fighting to let me study Music at A Level because everyone else has grades and theory and all the things that money can buy. 

It’s loving books and writing stories and getting your poem published with your drawings on it when you’re still in primary school but never reading a book about someone like you. It’s choosing all the courses at college and University that have creative writing in but never thinking you could write something that other people would want to read.

It’s working evenings and weekends at New Look and then the Student Union because that’s the only way you can eat and pay your rent. It’s waitressing all summer and falling behind on your reading because you had to work. It’s counting up how much your books cost for that term and wondering if you can get them out of the library or maybe you’ll just eat pasta for a week.

It’s taking that course that gives you a flight and a job abroad because there aren’t any savings. It’s never having savings. It’s going to the cashpoint with fear in your step because maybe you bought yourself one too many drinks or you shouldn’t have got a taxi and now you’re in the red. 

It’s eating on the cheap so you can go to Thailand and sleep in a beach hut. It’s always knowing, always, that you need to think about where the next money is coming from because there’s no inheritance and no bailouts, just what you scrabbled together. It’s the difference that makes to the way you see the world because if there isn’t a cushion, a safety net, then you’re always on edge.

It’s keeping a diary and a journal and playing around with describing things but never sharing it with anyone except your close mates who like to do the same. It’s loving singing and acting and writing but never doing it ‘seriously’ because there’s no money in it and who can afford to take time out to practise and get better and get rejected?

It’s going into teaching because you’re so thankful for everything they did for you. How you got a degree and now you can actually earn some half-decent money and rent your own flat, even if your savings never go beyond the deposit you need for the next one. 

It’s spending £1500 on your first car and feeling extravagant. It’s being able to go abroad on holiday every year and remembering how you used to go to Wales and sleep in the back of the car and go to Little Chef for a treat because they gave you a lollipop at the end. 

It’s teaching and working and stressing and working because it’s so damn nice to buy some new clothes and anyway you’ve had a Saturday job since 13 and you’ve been buying most of your own stuff since then. It’s sometimes remembering you liked to write and flicking back through notebooks and smiling.

It’s working too hard and wanting too much and then you make the wrong call and you want a way out and someone says something about a Masters course for writing and you’ve never even heard of it but it’s a way out of your job misery. It’s taking the course and doing supply work, maternity cover, paternity cover, working all day and studying all night, moving to a tiny room at the edge of Zone 6 so you can worry less about your rent. 

It’s not so much that you do well on the course but that someone looks you in the eye and says, ‘you could write a book.’ You get permission. And you’re thirty-three and no-one ever said that to you before and you read books about people who are like you, who had a life like yours, and you wonder if someone might want to hear what you’ve got to say after all.

Did you enjoy my post? If so you can support my writing for just the price of a coffee. Help keep the writing going! Thanks so much x

13 Replies to “What Being A Working-Class Writer Means To Me”

  1. Beautifully written! I get a real sense of place and creativity to do things on a tight (in my case, sometimes nonexistent) budget. I know the feeling, Sarah.

    1. Thanks so much. I’ve got a lot more breathing space in terms of finances these days but I think I underestimated how much it affected me to be like this all my childhood and for the most part of my adult life. Coloured my sense of my creativity more than I realised.

      1. Ahh, but it also made you more creative! My family was very poor when I was growing up, and while we didn’t have tons (or any) of name brand clothing or fancy vacations, we were forced to make do, get creative, do without (which is not always a bad thing), and use our imaginations. We spent hours making toys/games/messes and dreaming up adventures and pretending. I know there is much we went without, but I wouldn’t trade the time we had to be wild and free (and I don’t exaggerate when I say that, LOL) for the silver spoon experiences. Not to say some of that wouldn’t have been nice…I do think we learn resilience and determination when we have to work for what we have. Wow. I’ll be quiet now. I enjoyed your writing! I can tell how creative you are by your expressions and connections with place and experiences. 🙂

  2. And now here you are writing so beautifully and capturing the minds of readers and writers like me. Yes, there is an audience for you and your talent. Money can not buy that which only the heart can speak and a mind of confidence can create! this my dear is prolifically poetic and I had my share! Sarah scribble is not what you do not have, it is knowing what to do with what you do have!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.