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On Becoming a Writer

With no more options open to me, it's time to fulfil my dream, my destiny.

Why do I want to write? To be honest, at this point in my life I don’t actually want to write. It’s too much like hard work. In my teens, writing was easy. It was my release, my way of working through my emotions and angst of growing up. I could express myself in my writing in a way that I wasn’t able to with spoken words.

I dreamt of being a writer and thought of myself as a collector of experiences, like a geologist collecting rocks, clearing away the dirt, prising them from the ground then popping them in a scuffed pull-string leather bag to be retrieved at some other time to be polished and worked into something beautiful set into the pages of a precious manuscript.

But then life happened. By the time I left high school, I had had it drummed into me that my dream of being a writer was simply that—a dream. People don’t make money writing and it was time for me to be sensible and grown-up. And so, I started on one "sensible" career choice after another, but none suited me and I wasn’t very good at any of them. While I did enjoy some of them, I never felt a sense of fulfilment.

Other than keeping journals when I travelled, I wrote less and less, until I barely wrote at all. People who read my travel journals, letters, and occasional articles would tell me I was a good writer, but I always felt that I could only be good at it if I could devote decent time to it. There just never seemed to be the time. I’d try writing during my lunch breaks or in the evening after work, but the time was either too short or I was too tired at the end of a long day to be creative. The more I put it off, the more difficult it has become to return the space I used to go to where writing came effortlessly. The dream became more and more distant. Yet it always remained at the back of my mind though—a gnawing guilt that I really should write one day.

Writing became less of a dream and more of a conditional promise—if I can get a part-time job, if I win the lottery, if I can find Mr Right who will let me be a stay-at-home-wife, or when I retire, then I’ll write. A loose promise that I didn’t really expect to keep, but that freed me from the guilt of not writing. How ironic that after following my parents’ instructions and choosing sensible jobs, I should feel guilty—not for writing, but for not writing.

The problem with promises is that sooner or later you have to live up to your end of the bargain. Now the day has come and I find myself trying to find excuses to break the contract—I’m not really that good, there isn’t a market for my writing, I don’t have a good enough imagination, I’ll never finish.

Three years ago I was made redundant from my last job and instead of immediately fulfilling my promise, I continued to put it off. I failed at launching myself as a freelance editor, then I failed at several small business ideas. In the midst of all this, I developed health issues that impacted my ability to do "normal" work and ended up on a sickness benefit to help with making ends meet. I tried making pocket money through handmade crafts and art, but my illness causes terrible eczema on my hands so that I cannot work with my hands any more. Despite writing being the obvious choice, I’ve spent the last three years still trying to be sensible and I’ve failed. Still the belief that writing is "just a useless dream" prevails, but having exhausted all my other options it seems like it is the only path left. It’s almost as if fate has been planning this all along—placing obstacles at every turn to ensure that there can only be one route left to me and that is to fulfil my promise, my dream, my destiny, and become a writer. Not just a writer of occasional short articles and blog posts, but an actual real writer—an author.

And so it begins, a new year and a new goal: to finish my first novel in the next six months, before my 45th birthday. As they say, I have nothing to lose and this time, I really don't. So, I'm jumping in—not a graceful dive, but a cannonball do-or-die plunge. Watch out below. It's going to be a big splash!