All Over The World Tonight

Due to a combination of this year being my 50th birthday, a short burst of free time, and being inspired by someone else’s collection of old zines, I spent a couple hours recently looking through old files of work from… well, a long, long time ago. How long ago? If I tell you that most of the files were impossible to open because the platform that created them stopped being supported by their makers more than a decade ago, that might give you a clue. (Yes, it was a depressing discovery; I should have turned them all into PDFs when I had the chance.)

However, this dive into my own nostalgia did help me discover something I hadn’t realized, and which felt quite special, surprisingly: this month marks the 25th anniversary of the time the Scottish Arts Council paid me to go to Venice to visit and write about the Biennale for that year… which means that this is the 25th anniversary of the first professional writing gig I ever had.

That this happens the year I turn 50 — meaning that I have quite literally been a professional writer for half my life, which I genuinely hadn’t realized — feels quite the discovery, and an unexpected gift to me, the man who remains attached to signs and wonders and numerology despite not being good at math.

It’s a bit of a cheat to say that was the start of my professional writing career, maybe, despite it being technically true — I did, after all, get paid to go and write about the experience — it was close to a decade later before I got paid to write again, so maybe this counts as a preview of what was to come rather than the start of a career. (I had to move countries and spend some time in telesales before I really got started, as it turned out.) But I still remember how it felt to be told that it was happening, and the feeling that maybe people wanted to read what I had to say and how that felt like a responsibility and an honor and the start of something unexpected and important.

It was, even if that took awhile to arrive. I’m glad I realized it was the 25th anniversary while it was still the 25th anniversary, if that makes sense.

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