Amanda Quinn on taking part in Digi_Transform and working with a mentor to look at her digital profile.

In March I received an email. It said I’d been chosen to take part in a digital development programme for writers produced by New Writing North as part of Creative Fuse North East. I’d applied to force myself to do something about my website. It was basic. It was out of date. It was, quite frankly, embarrassing. Digi_Transform promised to makeover the digital side of my business and – six months later – it has. But as well as a smart new website what else did I gain from my time as a Digi­_Transform writer?

The chance to stop and think

So far, my career has progressed somewhat randomly. I submit work for publication and apply for funding or teaching posts as opportunities arise. Being involved in a professional development programme was a useful chance to pause and consider where I wanted to be in a few years rather than a few weeks.

Expert help

Even better, was the opportunity to discuss my career with an industry mentor. My mentor, Katy Carr, was supportive and insightful. She reminded me of things I’d forgotten I could do or wanted to do. She told me I was a good writer. She helped me look at my career in a more commercial and strategic way. The mentoring process gave me a clearer understanding of who I am as a writer and what I can offer people as a creative writing tutor and facilitator (as well as how this can be marketed). It also made me realise that, as writers, we often make plans that don’t leave our own heads. And – as our own heads are brilliant at talking us out of things and telling us that, no, we couldn’t possibly do that – it’s not surprising our motivation sometimes falters. Bringing those ideas out into the open and talking about them with a professional was a revelation. I wrote detailed notes after each session and expect to revisit them regularly – especially when I need a confidence boost.

Finding I was not alone

The 15 writers chosen to take part in Digi_Transform came from a range of disciplines. Scanning the names of novelists, poets, screenwriters, performers, journalists, and publishers the voice in my head returned to ask why I’d been included alongside these ‘real’ writers. But, at the first workshop, what I noticed was the things we had in common. The re-usable coffee cups and notebook filled bags. And questions that revealed similar issues about promoting our work and developing our careers. It was great to find out about other people’s writing worlds (and discover they were also interested in mine). A few of us met at the end of the programme to be filmed about our experience and we agreed this was one of the most interesting and useful parts of the programme.

Finding I could do it

I suspect I’m not the only writer to combine, ‘Here! Read what I have to say!’ confidence and cringing, ‘I’m a writer… well, not a famous one… don’t look at me!’ self-deprecation. Indeed, one of the more challenging parts of Digi_Transform was being forced to reveal more about myself. Writing an ‘About Me’ section for my website that said more than, ‘I write short fiction’. Blogging. Being professionally photographed and filmed. Gulp. But having to do things I’d previously shied away from was transformative. It made me realise I could do them, for a start. And explaining and photographing what inspires my writing brought my website to life.

In fact, the whole experience – especially the ‘you could do that’ encouragement of my mentor – has encouraged me to seek out other challenges. And, while I can’t promise to be starting a YouTube channel anytime soon, I definitely feel more comfortable blogging about my work or to let people know what my plans are.

Learning new stuff

Being filmed. Being professionally photographed. Using WordPress beyond typing text into a box and pressing ‘Update’. Working on the design and look of a website. It was all pretty unfamiliar, but I enjoyed learning new skills with the patient support of the developers, filmmakers and photographers. Even on days when I’d spent three hours faffing with the colour of the links on my website only to change them back to what they were originally. Well, probably.

What next?

So, yes, I’m digitally transformed – you can find my website at www.amandaquinn.co.uk and even sign up to receive regular news and updates (once I suss out Mail Chimp). But I also feel more productive, confident and motivated. And I have a plan for what to do next. Thanks New Writing North for choosing me to take part and everyone else involved in the programme for all your excellent help.