NAME: Viccy Adams
CITY: Newcastle & Edinburgh
ACTION/SECTOR: Science, Health, Research & Technology
POSITION: 1) Writer, editor, & collaborator, 2) Research Associate, 3) Writer in Residence
My Background and Career
I split my working week between academic research into creative processes and writing fiction.
Since finishing the PhD in 2011 I’ve held a number of positions which blend my skills as a writer and a researcher, including as Leverhulme Trust writer-in-residence at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh; Creative Writing Development Officer at NCLA; Research Associate in Creative Writing on a MRC funded pilot project looking at the relationship between creative arts and wellbeing in later life.
In 2011 I co-founded a transatlantic, cross-platform collaboration with a photographic media artist based in Brooklyn. We co-produce work using digital studio techniques and run The Peripatetic Studio, a participatory artists blog collating personal accounts about the relationships between the spaces artists work in & the work they produce.
My short fiction has been published in a large number of online magazines and print anthologies and I’m currently working on two novels, one of which was inspired by my residency at the School of Informatics. I also work freelance on commissions both as a writer and as a project manager, and teach creative writing.
Economic:Staying out of the earning pool by being a fulltime student for a decade, from undergraduate through to PhD, was not something I thought about until my friends started earning decent wages while I relied on student discounts and cheap beer. During my studies I picked up any work going in the department in order to be able to travel outwith term-time and this has led to me gaining a wide portfolio of experience from interviewing bookgroups to acting as editorial assistant on a major poetry anthology. I also got involved as a volunteer on various creative projects which led to me running my own projects – first unpaid and then as a freelance project manager. The freedom of hours as
a research student was worth the trade-off of living on lentils rather than martinis; I've had the pleasure of pursuing a vocation rather than a salary.
Family: I worry about worrying my family as incomes from writing and from short-term researcher contracts are traditionally unreliable. So far I've kept my head out of water, but as time goes on the uncertainty of where I'll be or what I'll be doing in 6 months time begins to grate.
Personal - As a perfectionist who prides herself on her ability to thrive under pressure, getting post-viral fatigue during my PhD felt like the end of the world. Taking six months off messed up my financial plans, sense of self, and led to me making a major change to my thesis that ultimately made it a much stronger piece of writing. I haven't learned my
lesson yet when it comes to pacing myself properly and have occasional lapses back into burnout. While my work tends not to suffer, my health and personal
life are often left on the sidelines.
Social:I’m white, middle-class & privately educated; I haven’t suffered from much that way
Opportunities and threats which had a strong influence on your career.
Funding has played a major role in giving me the support – financially and also emotionally – to keep my faith in my creative work.
Without it I wouldn't have been able to do my PhD, run community arts projects, or travel to New York to collaborate with Samantha, my creative partner, and keep our work together as two.5 going. Success with funding applications has also allowed me to train as a writing coach, take time out to focus on my fiction, and spend a year talking to world-class researchers about robots and emotional metaphors.
My family has always been supportive of my chosen careers, as a writer and an academic. While my friends haven't always understood what I actually do as a dayjob, they've been happy to listen to me talk for hours about my latest project, and faithfully attend launches and events. I've been lucky in developing a very supportive peer network around me, and in having mentors who reassure me that I'm doing a good job. Having people keen to work with you a second time round is a huge boost.
The lack of stability has been the major threat in my life. There's a pressure to teach as a way of making an income, to work without pay to get projects off the ground. Endless rejections for pieces that don't get published, or funding applications which go nowhere, knock my confidence levels every time. Juggling two or more part-time jobs in different fields takes a toll on the work/life balance.
Hints & Tips
Did some thing give you inspiration for your project / action / enterprise?
My best work has come from listening to other people. Talking to people about my work has also led to some wonderful opportunities, advice and chance encounters, but listening should be the first step for any project.
Suggestions and advice to give to women:
- See your peers as a support network, not as competition.
- Don't sell yourself short; only do voluntary/badly paid work if you know what other factors you're getting out of it.
- Learn to delegate. Learn to set boundaries. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help.
- There is no such thing as failure or success. Learning when to stop can be as important as knowing when to keep pushing yourself.
- Be aware of your priorities but accept gladly that they will change over time.
- Work with your weaknesses as well as your strengths.
Lucky saying or phrase - Anticipation is the hardest part of any hurdle. Passed on to me by my collaborator in two.5, Samantha Silver, as gentle encouragement towards the end of my PhD. I used to have it written in black marker on the back of my bathroom door.