The Etiquette of Writing an Exclusive Article

7 October - 27 January

Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck

43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD


I jolly well went ahead and published an exclusively commissioned article I wrote on this blog. I did so with the trepidation of someone stepping into an unauthorised, restricted area, yet with the careless abandon of a misbehaving child. I somehow knew I might be doing wrong, but I went ahead anyway. I can still error like the best of them. Humbled, I dutifully removed the post.

The experience altogether has been positive, not least for cementing in me the discipline to hold on, to wait, and to clarify before pressing the publish button. Writing a whole piece within a specified timeframe and submitting to a publisher was my first experience of realtime journalism. And I did so by respecting the source material and without compromising my voice. 

The commission rounded off a successful first term, and achieving my first publication in the Lamp & Owl, the school paper, would be the icing on the cake. 

My expectations entering a masters in journalism, without ever formally studying an arts subject beyond GCSE art, where at best realistic. I hoped for a good grade or two, and to successfully juggle my family life and the deadlines of writing journalistic prose. Prose that would be graded. Something that scared the life out of me. I would finally be judged critically on the quality of my writing, and not just receive friendly familial support. 

Yet it’s all about urgency and need. We achieve things in the face of our own mortality that underlines a sense of urgency and conviction. The time was right, I made this career change with intent and I would not let that slip. 

It was a year ago that I tentatively attended a Birkbeck open day hoping to assess the reality of reading a module, perhaps even changing careers. Having worked in clinical research, and with no experience of journalism, I was encouraged to apply for the MA on my enthusiasm alone. I suddenly saw an out. 

It was a given that through writing and photography I would eventually find my artistic voice, which has always been integral to my very being. In time I accepted this voice and I am now living it. 

I attended my once weekly evening lecture at Bloomsbury joyously, juggling the handover of my daughter at times through wind and rain as I waited for my wife’s arrival at the train station, chattering to my daughter to keep her amused. Somehow this all became routine, as normal a routine as bedtime is for my daughter — a trick I enjoyed because it was part of changing my life. 

Walking from Russell Square station to the Mallet Street campus — the architectural lights illuminating against the dimming evening light of winter — was an act of inherent free will. From the understated elegance of Georgian terrace houses to the utility-filled Brutalist beauty of campus buildings, I would walk past each to attend class oblivious to the horrid seasonal weather.

And with each session my confidence grew. My imagination forming structure to apply to previously nebulous ideas. So today I sit hear typing away on my laptop, armed with the tools of journalism, with growing confidence in building a story and conveying my thoughts, and with a touch of negotiation too, yesterday my article was published.

Mehmet Hassan