When I was at secondary school, a careers advisor came to speak to us. “You’re so lucky,” my mum said. “When I was at school, women could only be teachers or nurses.” My mum was a teacher. So when the careers advisor asked me if I had any ideas about what job I wanted to do when I was older, I took a deep breath and said what I’d never told anyone at school, “I want to be an author.” She looked at me like I was a complete idiot and said, “A author isn’t a job. It’s something people do when they retire.” Those words and that one look shaped the rest of my life.
I sat in stunned silence, hot in the face, wondering why I’d dared to share my dream with the careers advisor. She quickly asked, “What else do you want to be?” I blurted out the first thing that came into my head, “Maybe I’d like to work in advertising.” She handed me a leaflet about the advertising industry, and off I went with the realisation that a life as an author wasn’t meant for me.
Of course, I knew that an author was a job and not just something people do in retirement. But, in my mind, there was only one reason the careers advisor had said what she’d said. The chances of someone becoming an author were about as slim as winning the lottery. Authors must be extra-special superhumans, and if I was of the superhuman breed, wouldn’t it already be obvious to me and everyone around me? There was nothing extra-special about me, so who was I to even think of trying to become published?
Fast forward a few years and I moved to Liverpool to study creative writing at university. “You just need a degree, any degree. So you may as well choose something you love,” my mum had said. After graduating, I had no intentions of attempting to write a novel because why would I? Nothing had changed. I wasn’t superhuman.
A decade later, I joined a writing critique group. Two members were midway through writing novels. One was an accountant. The other was something else officey. They had no writing training (not that writing qualifications are needed to be published) but I mention this because despite having no writing background, they believed trying to get published was worth a shot. I wasn’t yet at the point of thinking, “If they can do it, why not me?” but a seed had been planted.
It took me years to reach the stage where I was confident enough to give novel-writing a try. But one day I just did it. It was meeting authors that made the difference. I would watch them being interviewed and they would say things like, “I compared myself to other authors. I never felt good enough. I feel like an imposter.” That’s when I realised I could let go of this belief that authors were superhuman. They were just like me. And if they can do it, why can’t I?
These days I dedicate a portion of my life to becoming a children’s author. I write and redraft, and I redraft again. I’m not published yet, but I know I’ll be in print in the not-too-distant future because I took the decision to let go of my fears and beliefs that were holding me back, to look at my life through a different lens and give my dream a real shot.
As a creativity & life coach, I help people let go of the negative mantras they’ve carried around with them from childhood that tell them they’re not good enough. I help people work towards their creative goals by overcoming self-doubt, growing their ideas and carving out time to create.