Slave or Master?

The definition of the word, ‘slave’: to be the property of another. Those into a bit of Etymology will be interested to know that this version comes from Medieval Latin: ‘sclavus’ and only later evolved to also mean ‘one who has lost power of resistance to some habit or vice’. We find the latter littered all over the place, as a loose expression for feeling so powerless to something that we become slavish to it, for example, you may hear: i’m a slave to TV; a slave to my iPhone; a slave to my job.

The definition of ‘master’: ‘a man who has people working for him, especially as servants or slaves’ / ‘a person who holds a further degree’.

I would say I have been slavish to a few things throughout my life but can see I have been slavish many times to my romantic ideals. I read Austen at too young an age, I watched musical epics-often, and on my degree, I loved the renaissance poetry and sonnets – and this brings with it an idealistic view of the world that can enslave me a bit- making me resistant to its cruel counterpart… reality.

Romantics do get challenged of course, often. You get tested when you visit a hospital, a grave or see the news and definitely when you have a child. My romanticism about writing has had to be challenged too, until recently…

As I expressed in my last blog, I’ve been a little disappointed about, what I perceived to be, X-Factor style parading of wannabe authors. I mean… an agent? It does sound soulless doesn’t it?!

You see, as a wannabe writer (plus romanticist) it’s obvious I would enjoy the notion of my manuscript being serendipitously happened upon by a chain-smoking publisher, with a spare half-hour on his hands, or fished out of a waste-paper bin by a keen clerk and held aloft with a -“You must read this! Here is the Oscar Wilde of our generation!”

The realist in me knows this is unlikely.

It is not only unlikely, but with an industry full of agents and the rarely used (if at all) slush pile, it is more of an impossibility nowadays. I think that’s why I dislike the agents and ‘Masters in Creative Writing’ routes to a glittering writing career. They render my sensibilities above dead in the water.

It’s the equivalent of hoping to meet your life partner through a magical chain of events that seem against all odds or

I’m not knocking or any other dating site, I think they are a great idea and if I hadn’t found my husband when I did I certainly would have uploaded a fake photo of myself, but the thing is, when you’re really hung up on the happy accidents, destined meetings and divine signs – you get a bit flat when reality bites.

Then, I had a moment.

I was chewing over this writing lark, still tentatively, when I found myself serendipitously hearing a radio programme about this very thing. My husband had used the car and tuned the radio to 5 Live, a station I have never listened to, mainly because my two year-old refuses all radio noise in the car, in a most dominant fashion. Indeed, the tiny finger waves at me and a small voice threatens in a most unnerving tone, “turn-it-off-mummy”. Thus, I have been driving in relative silence over the last two years. Then yesterday afternoon, I jumped in the car for the dreaded school-run and said husband’s radio station came on, I vaguely noticed and listened half-heartedly to the dulcet tones, expecting my small charge to pipe up and then…we queued in traffic and I grew interested, very interested.

They were interviewing Emma Healey, a new writer, who had her first novel, ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ published, not just published, but they had fought over her manuscript. She had caused a publishing war. The broadcasters asked her various questions about the storyline, all of which were fascinating, her topic matter being dementia, but then, quite amazingly to me, they discussed the benefits of having an agent and whether a Masters in Creative Writing was necessary to her story or not. Now it’s not lost on me that this isn’t that groundbreaking, as radio journalism goes, but don’t forget I have a little dictator in the back and I was expecting a rude interruption any moment and had not tuned in deliberately on this particular day. Then I noticed my little one was sound asleep and it felt very…meant for me.

I listened to the rest in the car park and hung on every word, it finished just as I was due to get out of the car. Emma Healey told how a publisher had filled rooms with forget-me-nots and tinned peaches to woo her (images from her novel); the agent she had acquired on her M.A had been a great guide and a definite asset; the Masters was ‘hugely’ enjoyable- she COULDN’T have written the novel without it. I was enthralled. It was a very romantic story but it was very real -it was a perfect combination.

The thoughts whirred, I could do a Masters in Creative Writing, ooh I would like an agent and maybe one day I would feel the way Emma Healey felt about her first novel, anything but disappointed.

You can be a romantic and still have a head for practicalities, but up to now I  just didn’t apply this to writing-perhaps I didn’t want to, ‘when the student is ready the teacher appears’ my mum often says.  I looked up the origin of this quote and it is also quoted as: ‘when the seeker is ready the master appears’.  I had been playing around with the idea of the words master and slave for this post.  I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

So, perhaps it is possible to be slavish to romantic ideals and yet have a pragmatic approach at the same time – maybe I have been missing it – maybe I could be both a slave to romance and a master of words and write my masterpiece at the end of it! 🙂


If you’re interested in hearing the podcast of the interview with Emma Healey I ‘tried’ to link it below:

‘Radio 5 live’: to hear the podcast of the interview with Emma Healey… type this in to your search bar and hopefully you should see it listed for the next 30 days…