Cameron Conant is an American-born freelance writer based in Edinburgh who has recently written for the 2013 edition of Edinburgh Friends - the University’s donor magazine. Here he tells us why he believes self-improvement is much more important than making money.
|MSc Creative Writing
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
I first visited Edinburgh in the late 1990s as an undergraduate student from Michigan. A small group of us performed a play in the Fringe Festival. For many of us, it was our first time outside of North America, and we were awed by the architecture and history of the city.
I vaguely remember that the flat we stayed in didn’t have any towels. Oddly, only one of us had brought one, and we willingly shared that lone towel between the seven of us. It’s a fairly disgusting thought now, but that's the sort of thing you do when you’re 19. Our money wasn’t going to go to towels: there was beer to purchase.
The second time I visited Edinburgh was in 2011, as a postgraduate student in the Creative Writing programme. I was surprised by how little I remembered from my first visit: it was a different city, or rather, I was a different person, though the sites were still magical - in some ways, more so.
Now that I live here, I have to remind myself to see things with a tourist’s eyes once in a while. Occasionally, I look up, and when I do, I’m regularly rewarded with something I hadn’t noticed before. It’s strange how quickly the extraordinary can become commonplace
I vaguely remember that the flat we stayed in didn’t have any towels. Oddly, only one of us had brought one, and we willingly shared that lone towel between the seven of us.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
Since leaving the University, I’ve married . My wife - who I first started dating while I was in the Peace Corps, teaching English in Cape Verde, West Africa - is an Anglican pastor of a large city centre church, and I’m dutifully toiling away on a novel that I began during my time in the Creative Writing programme.
I occasionally even still manage to get together with Robert Alan Jamieson, the novelist and founder of the Creative Writing department at Edinburgh.
I’m trying to understand where the global economy is headed and what it all means for writers - why are so many freelance. Even after reading many articles on the nature of the Internet and the future of work, I’m still not sure I fully understand it all.
It was the best of times, It was the worst of times, has never felt so true.
Be kind. If you want to be revolutionary, realise that. You must change yourself before you can change the world. There’s a lot of noise these days, a lot of opinions, but very few of us (me included!) want to do the hard work of self-transformation, usually because it’s painful and involves facing up to some ugly realities.
As I think of it, we usually don’t change ourselves: it’s done to us through some unplanned setback or difficulty. I guess we either cooperate with the setback - what is this trying to teach me? - or let it make us angry. We either transform our pain, or we transmit it to others (think about those shouty debates on Facebook and you know what I mean).
I also believe that making money is not a bad thing, but I’m fairly certain it’s not the ‘highest good’ or the thing that is to be sought above all others. To be fully alive, and to help other people become more fully alive, is a much more fulfilling calling than buying your eighth vintage car or that second Southern California mansion you don’t need.
Helping others can be done across all disciplines, fields and industries - medicine, business, art, literature, counselling, spirituality, social work, gardening, teaching, science - but find ways to help other people, and give as much as you can to those who can’t pay you back.
Read our November profiles