Justine Chamberlain – Poet & Scriptwriter
… And serial blogger.
10 Bits of Advice I Didn’t Need
Quite frankly, when I stopped working I thought people would stop telling me what to do. I was wrong. I was epically wrong. In fact, more people tell me what to do now, because they think I have nothing better to do than listen to their advice. So this is a top 10 list of things people have been telling me to do since being made redundant, and starting back at uni as a mature student:
1. Memorize the TV schedule!” I’m not sure what people expect of a writer when they give up their job to write, but it certainly hasn’t involved watching TV. Every morning is filled with work, every afternoon is filled by studying, and every evening… well OK that’s TV time, but in my defence it’s too cold to do much else but sit under a cover on the couch watching whatever’s been Tivo’d.
2. “Get (or borrow) a dog!” If I was going to get a dog, I’d probably have to leave my allergy prone boyfriend, and then people would be telling me to get a boyfriend, who would probably have allergies, and I’d end up in a never ending boyfriend-dog cycle of advice that just isn’t really worth all this. Someone actually suggested I borrow someone else’s dog for a few weeks, which is probably the most absurd thing I’ve ever been told. Why would I want the kitchen lino ripped up by someone else’s dog?
3. “Get a free double-glazing quote, if not for this year then next!” OK so these people aren’t technically my friends, but I speak to them fairly often. Others like to call and give me a survey. I give them about 10 seconds of my attention then leave the line open and carry on with what I was doing, occasionally laughing at “Hello? Missus are you there?”. I most certainly am not here at home to answer questions in a survey from specially selected sources, nor am I going to get any double-glazing from a cold caller, nor am I interested in any government grants for anything that I’m not looking up online myself. Which brings me to the next piece of golden advice.
4. “Register with the Telephone Preference Service!” Like I’m a small child that didn’t do this when I moved into this house 6 years ago. The fact is, TPS might get rid of all sorts of pesky calls, but it can’t get rid of them all. For example surveys are not cold-call sales and therefore survey companies think they are above TPS lists. There have been a few stories on the news recently on how to get rid of cold callers, but I haven’t got time because I’m too busy listening to everyone’s advice about everything else.
5. “Stay busy or you’ll get bored!” Seriously, I work all day, I have uni twice a week. The only time I’m not busy is when I sleep. The weekend is no longer the relaxing time it used to be (though it never really was anyway), it’s just the same as every other day in the week. I get up, every morning is filled with work…
6. “You’ve got time to write that best seller now!” Generally, the people who say this are the morons who haven’t actually listened to me when I’ve said I’ve gone back to uni to specialise in poetry, what’s exactly why I chose Manchester Metropolitan University and not any other university in the country, because it’s actually got real life proper legen [wait for it] dary poets. And there’s no such thing as a poetry best-seller, or at least there isn’t one that will set me up for life in the J.K. Rowling kinda way. Nope, I’m just going to obsessively write poetry for the next 2 years, then be hungry and close to homelessness (because that’s what all good poets used to be, two hundred years ago, and I’m bringing it back).
7. “Travel, go on holiday, have a blast!” Again, the advice of people who haven’t listened to the fact that I’m in uni, attend classes every week, work throughout the day, and will travel a maximum of 20 miles, sit on my arse and write or read like I would do at home, because that’s what life is now. Travelling is for people who have an income not generated by the teeny tiny interest paid on my savings account, that doesn’t even pay for a full tank of petrol.
8. “Get a job!” Yes OK, I understand that people think full-time students (particularly those with only 2 classes per week) are just dossing around, getting stoned, and generally being a drain on their parents purses, but I’m actually trying to make this work OK? There’s a lot that has to be done when retraining and aiming for a career change. Manager to Writer is a huge change and a lot of my time is spent looking at the market, researching publishers, jobs at publishers, journalism, and then of course there is the main focus: the student bit where I’m writing poetry, researching poets, and reading the best things written in the 20th and 21st century. Oh, and I’m 31, not 18.
9. “Go to the events in Manchester!” This is a really good idea. There are some really good events on in Manchester all the time, like the Literature Festival that just finished, the Science Festival that’s just starting, and then the Christmas Markets will be on. There are three problems with this. I’d do a list but you’re already reading one. Oh you really want to know? Ok. 1. It still costs money to get in and out of Manchester. It cost me £9 in parking near Carol-Ann Duffy and friends the other night. The train is around £3.90 return in the day. Even that’s like, one pint of beer. 2. I’m kinda busy trying to work. 3. It’s also kinda lonely to attend things on your own because you’re the only one who doesn’t have a job, and you want to spend your weekend at home because it’s the only time you see your boyfriend. Sorry, this blog was supposed to be funny. Here: farts.
10. “Start a blog!” And this is the only one I’m paying attention to. Why? Because it’s writing. It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s an online presence (people keep telling me I need an online presence). It’s something I can knock out in a couple of hours if I’m not feeling poetic or studyey (no that’s not a typo). However people really have gone OTT on deciding (on my behalf) what kind of blog to write. “It should it be a poetic blog with beautiful words describing the horrors of life!”, “It should be a student blog tracking the day to day, week to week antics of life in the Writing School!”, “It should be a food blog as you love cooking!” blah blah blah. Ghhhh. It’s gonna be whatever the hell comes to me, and if I get some readers, it’ll be because they think it’s worthwhile or even funny. Otherwise, it’s just me, being me.
I’ll give one piece of advice back. Stop giving people advice.