R.B. Kelly Professional Writer & Creative Writing tutor at the Crescent Arts Centre
Saving the best for last, creative writing may still be one of the best avenues to travel down for English graduates and all-round creatives seeking out a more personal tailored career path. Rachel Kelly is an inspiring figure in the local writing community, beginning her career when ‘Edge of Heaven’ was published in 2016, by the ‘Irish writers’ centre novel fair competition. Her road towards becoming a writer has been one paved one of many achievements and hitches along the way, beginning when she was ‘old enough to pick up a pen’. Due to great experience, and a wealth of knowledge on writing since her youth, she never decided to formally study creative writing. However, Kelly is a great advocate of bringing people together through your writing and, ‘is amazed by how much can be gained from formalised learning and being open to being taught.’
Therefore, those students that may choose to undertake formalised learning in the field of creative writing, which is a renowned department within Queen’s, worthy of respect, may be an excellent choice for those wanting to perfect their craft and harness the experience of world-renowned local authors on their doorstep. Alongside this, there are excellent opportunities and venues out there that will help you on your road to becoming a successful writer of the times such as, No Alibis bookstore, Blackwells bookstore, The Belfast Book Festival, and ‘Women Aloud NI’ to name but a few. Kelly speaks fondly of those involved in the local writing movement as she states that ‘Belfast’s writing scene is vibrant and welcoming.’
She also emphasises the importance of getting to know your peers and networking with fellow creatives, ‘literary events are a great way of meeting fellow creatives involved in the writing scene and to get a sense of how others have made a career in their art.’ This experience will open fellow students’ eyes to the reality that no two pathways are ever the same in crafting a path towards becoming an artist. A word of warning to those students wanting to make a living with their writing career, and become successful, the reality is that most writers ‘earn in the region of £7,000 per year’; and so it can be notoriously difficult to make ends meet in this field. It’s always best to find something on the side that would allow you the time to follow your true passion. For Kelly, teaching creative writing part-time was an unexpected gift that fuelled her own writing with ideas and technique that continues to influence her own work; and up until recently has worked within the arts administration sector too.
Students looking to improve their own work should find a job that could potentially tie-in with their own writing; or alternatively a job in a completely unrelated field that could allow them enough time to craft their own stories. The important thing is to, ‘be realistic in your expectations’ and tailor your own career to suit you as the creative. Kelly has paid homage to local authors and institutions such as the Arts council of Northern Ireland of which she been the recipient of ‘artists career enhancement scheme’ which helped with the mentorship of Ian McDonald to work on her second novel who she hails as her, ‘go to example for people who say it’s strange being a science fiction writer from Northern Ireland.’ Another local legend of the science fiction community being Jo Zebedee and praises her, ‘continued efforts to make a space for local authors to help each other out – regardless of which stage they are at in their career.’ She also gives a fine tribute to dear friend Anne McMaster, local playwright and author, who in Kelly’s words, ‘directs massive amounts of time and enthusiasm towards supporting local authors through her own work with Women Aloud NI. This writers’ association, of which Kelly has had the privilege of being part of the management committee, continues to greatly support women writers in Northern Ireland to have a voice and reach a wider audience with their work. Kelly praises their continued support as being ‘invaluable’ and a source of strength for her career.
There’s nothing quite like the creative freedom of expression that a writer’s life affords to those lucky enough to be able to walk down this path. However, like everything else it is a difficult path to follow at some points, and perseverance along with resilience is needed to perfect your passion. Write and keep writing regularly is key to writing that novel and pushing past the awful ‘writer’s block’ that one will no doubt encounter in their career. Kelly’s advice as an experienced professional is to, ‘write as though nobody is ever going to see your work. It will allow you to create something that is unique.’
The best type of work comes from the heart and what is important to you, so not conforming to what you think the audience out there may want to read is crucial. Inspiration is terrific once you have it, but ultimately overrated, you need to be able to create something even when you feel you’re producing nothing of interest. Kelly would give testimony to this sound advice, and the fact that writer’s block shouldn’t get in the way of your first novel, ‘if you want to write, write even when it’s difficult, and not just when it’s easy.’ Set out with the idea of becoming a successful writer, and in that success become known for beautifully formed prose, plot and characters with true substance to be read and enjoyed by many generations to come. Become not only a writer but a prophet of the times with outstanding work that will touch the hearts of those lucky enough to encounter your work on their own journeys to come. R.B Kelly is an outstanding local author drawing like-minds together; with a message of persistence and endurance on the road to becoming the artist you dream you can be.
In conclusion, all these outstanding individuals present you with many paths to becoming the artist you wish to be in your career. It’s up to those students graduating to bear their educational background as a badge of honour and expertise they can bring to any field they wish to join. Creatives are the innovative thinkers and unique leaders which will fuel the cogs of the fourth industrial revolution bringing context to the applications the digital age presents e.g. advancing technology and the need for the human touch in business. They will be the problem-solvers in some of the biggest hindrances we’ve encountered as a species, such as our global impact upon the environment, and the impact of cyber-crime and flow of digital information available across our most prized industries of late to name but a few. Employers should recognise these individuals for the qualities and assets they can bring to their businesses; and treat them with all the respect efficient and more than capable individuals deserve. Remembering all the while, that when they set out towards your chosen careers, that they will find and form their own communities across Belfast and beyond. These will be their own creative hubs where they tie their own ideas and beliefs together as a source of inspiration and encouragement for each other. Where graduates will become their own individuals, growing as artists together, and continuing to add spice to the greater whole through the power of their own unique stories.
The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.
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