It was a pleasure and a privilege to interview Susan, Nicole, Aparna and Madeline for City News recently. You can read the interview here.
Rather than talk about them, though, I’m going to talk about myself here. Hah!
We are all so interesting to ourselves, aren’t we.
This is just a short, choppy (because I probably have thirty minutes before the baby wakes) story about how following my gut instincts has lead (slowly because I probably didn’t follow my gut quick enough) to me finally doing what I’ve wanted to do for a very long time and that is: write for publication.
This is an important enough event in my life to mark it down in this blog through a brief reflection.
For many years the only thing I really wanted to do was “write”. I thought a lot about it. I even joined a writer’s group when my eldest (now 8) was just born. That was a bit of fun, but I also felt it was kind of pointless if what I was writing was essentially just sitting on a page in a file somewhere.
So, soon enough, I started a blog. The funny thing about that is that I just knew I had to start a blog years before I did. Blogs were just starting to be a thing and I wanted one! For some reason or another I stalled, for a year or two I stalled. I’m some kind of turtle I suppose and I really like to mull things over before I hit send!
In a world where being a ‘risk-taker’ is a good thing it’s hard to admit that, BUT I have also read that procrastinating can be a good thing, and I know it to be so in some cases. Take my upcoming best-selling, earth shattering novel, for example. I don’t know what it is yet, but when I do it will be profound…and, if I never get there at least I never wasted my time on a bunch of drivel. Oh wait, maybe this is the drivel? Nevermind. You’re here voluntarily, I’ll just say.
The thing about that little ditty is that I just knew. I knew blogging was for me, though I didn’t know why, and I waited and waited until the urge drove me to do it and then I did it. I did it for a few years and then it was ok. I had done it. I put the keyboard away and kept plugging away at my university degree.
The uni degree was another one. It made me tear my hair out. I tried a creative writing degree, a psychology degree but neither of those gave me joy – or I was just too immature for them – and so I got married and had babies instead. I was probably too immature for that! But there you go, it happens. I grew up fast and it was like ripping a band-aid off, fast and painful.
Nevertheless, here I am, on the flip-side of a six year university degree. No, I am not a doctor I am just a mum doing the books, raising the kids, holding down a casual freelancing gig and cooking dinner on the side while also studying my first (complete) undergrad degree. I just knew though that if I got to 80 and I hadn’t done a degree I would have been profoundly disappointed in myself. I knew I had to do it and I did it. I chose one whose subjects looked enjoyable. They were all to do with food and health at the time, but the degree itself was called ‘Sustainable Development’. All these things looked appealing. The secret for me here was to choose a degree which had interesting subject matter, not thinking of ‘what I want to be when I grew up’. The joy is in the detail and the doing. That’s something I’ll tell my kids.
Finally, writing. I see my name on the front page of a small-town, local magazine and I love it and, also, weirdly, it seems so natural. Interviewing for the article engaged all my faculties. Interpreting and following threads of interest through the conversation were so thrilling. Writing the article up was a breeze! Sure there was a discipline involved but it was so enjoyable. And while my dear mentor chopped my article around a wee bit just to show me the style of the mag and the form my article must take, in the end it made sense to me. It’s a natural fit. My psyche loves it.
This is unlike photography, which I am so glad and grateful to have had the opportunity to have learned (and also, strangely, I had a premonition I would learn in the queue of a supermarket at the age of 13 or so, before photography was downright everywhere!), but it was never a very comfortable fit with me. It was like half a step in the right direction. I loved peeking into people’s lives and often taking the photos was a lot of fun, but I wanted to sit down and interview every single person I photographed. I just wanted to talk to all the guests at the wedding and find out everyone’s unique backstory. Sitting down to edit 5000 odd photographs after a wedding sunk my spirit and my eyes could not distinguish one edit from the next after a while. It was a tough haul up a long hill. But I’m glad to have done it. I can use it with my writing.
I’d been looking for an opportunity to write for a long time. I’d thought about photographing a house and interviewing, pitching the article to a home magazine, but didn’t have the guts to follow through, I didn’t know how to go about it, I didn’t want to waste my interviewee’s time and didn’t know if I could actually do it! I wish I’d done it (I think). I also got hell busy with all that stuff I mentioned above. But then there was an opportunity. A friend wrote for a magazine. I just asked her if she could show me the ropes. She graciously said an emphatic yes! Her editor wouldn’t mind at all! Then I got pregnant and it stalled for two years (I am horrendously dysfunctional as a pregnant woman). Then I felt like I was ready and I went for it. I met my first article subject at a pottery class and asked her in 30 seconds if I could interview her and that was it. Now I couldn’t get out of it. I had to deliver and the process was a beautiful thing after that!
I feel quite grateful to the universe and all participants for delivering on that one.
But there’s some kind of message here for all you faint of heart. It is this:
Follow your gut/heart/intuition and take the opportunity – then make the opportunity.
Blogging trained me to write for an audience (however loosely), photography gave me the gear and skill to take a fair picture for my articles, my university degree gave me the eyes to look out for interesting subject matter and developed my thinking to be astute about the world and its needs in order to communicate the things (I think) it needs to hear.
By no means is this the end of the line, but it is a poignant semi-colon into another clause of life.
I’m glad about that.