Patrick O’Neill did a BA (Hons) Degree in Modern Studies: English and Sociology. He then did a Masters in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
I finished my English degree in 1997 and decided to do a PGCE in Further Education teaching at Bolton University. Unfortunately I left my placement for financial and health reasons and was unable to gain the qualification. After leaving this course, I worked as a temp in offices, banks and call centres in Manchester.
At the same time I was also developing my creative writing skills attending evening classes and residential courses in my spare time. I came out of work completely due to stress and was awarded Disability Living Allowance (DLA) on mental health grounds. As a result, I was financially able to do the Masters Degree in Creative Writing at MMU for which I enrolled in September 2001.
My passion for writing had developed to the extent that I had attended nearly every writing course and residential in the local area and felt that as I already had an English degree, doing a Masters Degree seemed a natural progression from my first degree and a means of pursuing my writing career at a professional standard.
I was highly motivated to do Creative Writing and had already started writing a book based on my childhood growing up in Dublin, ‘It Ain’t Over Yet, Danny Boy’. My ambition was to write my first book in a helpful and supportive environment, get it published, and make a career out of writing or allied skills such as writing articles, proof-reading and/or editing.
I was worried about my capacity to do the course academically and my ability to interact socially with other students. Returning to study can be expensive and so another worry was whether I would be able to afford the course fees and living expenses at the same time.
I was assessed by the University on disability grounds and obtained the Disabled Student Award (DSA) which meant that I got equipment to help me to do the course more effectively, such as a Maxdata computer which still works (old faithful) study skills software and an ergonomic chair.
Halfway through the course I had a difference of opinion with my fellow classmates as a result of which I accessed a Student Support Worker who helped me to develop the interpersonal strategies I needed to deal with the cut and thrust of Creative Writing feedback seminars, in particular.
My advice to other mature students is to think carefully about what course you want to study in terms of its practical application to the employment market. There can be a conflict between following your head or your heart. Do you take a more practical realistic approach i.e. studying a vocational subject that has a high chance of leading directly into employment or do you follow your passion? With some luck and hard work you can have success in both.
I was highly motivated to do Creative Writing and have already started writing a book based on my childhood growing up in Dublin, ‘It Ain’t Over Yet, Danny Boy.’
I feel that I did what I wanted to do and I don’t have any regrets about studying for my Masters Degree in Creative Writing. As a friend of mine says, ‘They can’t take it off you.’
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