When I graduated with English Honours, I had no idea of what career I was to adopt. Back then the only thing one could really think of, and I talk of a time in the distant past when dinosaurs roamed the earth and cell phones were but a gleam in the eye of the tech savvy, was a career either in advertising as a copy writer or in journalism as a features writer. So I did both. One at a time. I got into an advertising agency as a copywriter. Got mind numbed from endless meetings and having to hawk stuff as the best thing since sliced bread and moved into journalism where I had more words and more topics to play around with.
It was around at this point in my life that I got married, and a few years later popped an offspring. This naturally, as you might suspect, put an end to all the hot shot feature writing career, given that closing nights and squalling offspring did not make for a happy combination.
I took a career break. After all, I told myself I could always get back to work when he was older, and not so reliant on me being there, and he had two doting grand mothers who could be relied on to babysit but somehow my grand plans of getting back to full time work never materialized. What happened instead was that I segued, painlessly, into freelance writing of articles, features, reports etc. It worked for me. I wrote at times convenient to me, when the offspring was at school, on days with urgent deadlines I was grateful to my mother in law who would watch him until I came home. And unknowingly, I had structured my entire day around his schedule. In the interim, to keep the creative writer within me alive and kicking, I’d begun blogging. The blogs, two of them, one a parenting blog and the other a personal blog, got rather popular. Writing features and consumer reports by now was getting tedious and repetitive, but I didn’t dare stop. I knew nothing else I could do.
Then came the next logical step. I wrote a book. With much hope and prayer I sent it out to an editor at Westland who liked it and was willing to take a risk on it. It got published. This was what I was meant to do, I told myself. Write books. I enjoyed it. It had taken me forty years of my life to get here, but all that life experience, all that lifetime of reading and writing, was now getting distilled into my own writing. I wrote my second one. That was a little harder to sell. I’m not going to talk about rejection notes except to say that each one was kind and made me go back to my manuscript and keep reworking it until another editor liked it and said yes. It is a life lesson I’ve learnt since, that rejection is temporary giving up is permanent. I started turning down work I didn’t enjoy, albeit with much trepidation. One life to live, I told myself, I should do what makes me want to get to my desk every morning with adrenaline coursing through my fingertips.
I’ve now shifted completely from writing features to writing books and I love that I am now in a position where I can do the work I love at times that are convenient to me, and allows me to work around my son’s schedule and timings. I am blessed, I realize, to be in this space and I am grateful.
I work hard. I am at my desk 8 am to 2.30 pm every single day, and let it be said, I do not extend the Muse the courtesy of waiting for her to arrive before I begin my day’s work. I begin work without her in attendance, she shows up when she pleases, or not at all on certain days.
All I say, is that there is no cutoff date that should prevent you from following your dreams. I was 40 when my first book was published. I always thought I had a book or two in me but never dared write it. Today, I am glad I did, glad I acknowledged to myself and gave in to the insistent demands of two dear friends and one surly mom that I must write it. It freed me of my presumptions that I wasn’t novelist material. I have two books out now and am working on others.
I’m doing what I love. And all it took was that one leap of faith, that one moment when I told myself that I was going to follow a dream. And I did.