Please note, this post was originally published in 2014...
As anyone who’s ever been labelled a ‘good girl’ would know, playing by the rules (other people’s rules) can be a suffocating and unrewarding experience. I’ve been following the rules my entire life.
I always did well at school, I studied what I was told was the ‘sensible choice’ and I worked hard to get a career in what I thought was the ‘right thing to do’. Nearly seven years later I was burnt out, unhappy in my job and feeling that my creativity was all but extinguished. Except I was still the ‘good girl’ – I performed well, was rewarded and was chasing a promotion because I thought that’s what I should be doing.
Then I started writing.
No matter how stressful my work day, no matter how unsatisfied I felt, sitting down to write made me feel free. I’ve had a lot of people ask how I managed to fit writing in while working a full time job, running a house etc. The answer is that I love it so much I simply can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. When Harlequin called me in December 2013 to offer me a two-book contract, I was in shock. I’d been told that hardly anyone sells their first manuscript, I’d been told that it could take years to get a publisher to pick up my work. It took seven months from the time I submitted.
Now, I don’t say this to brag. I say this to encourage aspiring authors. You CAN do it. I started the same way many writers do: with a passion for reading and a desire to tell a story. I don’t have any qualifications in creative writing, I don’t come from a family of writers. I just sat down and started with Chapter One.
Now, I have three books coming out with Harlequin Mills and Boon and I’ve recently signed a contract for a novella with Entangled Publishing. I’m also moving to Canada with my husband. I’ve quit my day job and I’m going to concentrate on my writing for the next two years. Sure, I’ll still have to work a part time job for a little financial certainty. But my work won’t be my first priority, my writing will be.
I had to stop being a ‘good girl’ and start being me.
I was lucky enough to work with an mentor in my office job who gave me some life-changing advice. She told me that I needed to stop apologising for going after the things I want. I listened to her, and it was possibly the best thing I’ve ever done. If it wasn’t for my writing I would never have had the confidence in myself to break away from what I thought I should be doing. Now, I’m about to embark on a scary and exciting new life adventure, all because I sat down one day and let the words flow.
Someone asked me recently what steps I took to make these changes and there’s no real easy answer to that. It was a multitude of factors, but the following is a list of things that I felt were key in helping me get to the point where I could go after what I wanted:
- Firstly, I needed to let go of the idea that my family would be disappointed in me if I chose an alternative path in life. Their love for me isn’t defined by my professional success.
- I had to zero in on what was most important to me and be honest about it. Was making a lot of money important or was the chance to have a creative, fulfilling job more important? That's a tough one. It’s easy to say ‘money doesn’t matter’ but I was giving away a very well paying job and this impacted no only me, but my husband. We still have to pay the bills. I needed to find a practical solution.
- That leads me to my third point, I had to talk it out with my husband. It was a decision that affected us both. He needed to be involved.
- I had to ask myself if I truly believed I could do it. I’ve never been a super confident person and over the years I’ve doubted my ability on many things. But I wasn’t going to take a leap unless I could look myself in the eye and say ‘I believe in you.’
- I was willing to deal with the challenges of someone following their dream: being self-reliant, dealing with people who are not as happy for you as you expect, dealing with people who criticize your choice/what you write/how you live your life. It’s all worth it to do what makes me happy.
The steps leading up to making the switch were emotional and mental changes rather than physical ones. These are often the hardest to make, but they have the most impact. Be honest with yourself, are you following your plan or someone else's? What do you need to do to change your life and put it on a course toward your goals? Have you settled by ticking other people's boxes?
They're not easy questions to ask. But they are worth it, because change won't come without a long hard look in the mirror.