Lessons for Life

One of my favourite features of writing is how much it can teach you about life. 

I did an unusual event this week. It was for the South West Academic Trust, to 150 of the most gifted sixth formers from ten schools across the region. 

They asked me to do a two hour session, talking about my writing and journalism, but also "wider themes". 

I thought hard about whether to use this title, given its remarkable modesty, but went for it anyway - 


And happily the title worked. It was a great ice breaker, and it certainly got their attention (you know how cool and hard to engage da yoof can be).

But also I could speak with integrity, and that came across. Because I genuinely meant what I was saying. So much I've learnt in the course of being a writer are lessons for life. 

We covered characterisation - how I imagine the people who feature in my books, and how that model can be used to help understand people in real life. 

We played a newsroom game - a demonstration of fast thinking, adaptability and prioritisation. 

We looked at famous headlines through the ages and what they showed us about the beautiful, but subtle art of communication. 

How to tell a story also featured - not just as a writer, but if you're putting together a job application, or even if you're out on a date. Whatever you do in life, you need to be able to tell your story, and do it well. 

We even looked at lateral thinking, from how to win a war with a Trojan Horse, to the Theory of Relativity, to university interviews.

All that in two hours (no wonder I was tired at the end.)

Everything I put into the session was a lesson learnt in my 25 years of working and writing life, and what was so uplifting was...

The number of youngsters who thanked me as they left, and were very kind about what I'd said. 

Which left me with a strong and happy memory of another lesson in life. 

I took a risk with the title of the session. It could easily have been laughed at and fallen flat. But it worked. 

And that thought will give me strength the next time I think about trying something innovative. 

If you don't ever try...