I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child. There were some casual flirtations with other career options during my teenage years: lawyer (I did work experience at a suburban law firm), political operative (I studied Australian and international politics as part of my Bachelor of Arts degree when I was 17, 18 and 19) and strangely even a hairdresser when I was in primary school (I think there may have been some peer pressure involved with this one).
But most writers don’t earn enough to just write so even after finishing my Bachelor of Arts and going on to finish a two-year writing and editing qualification and start a master’s degree in writing, I forged a career elsewhere. I started in administration (isn’t that where everyone starts?) to get some office-based experience and wrote in my spare time. I moved into an editing role in the same industry that I gained my administration experience and continued writing in my spare time.
And then finally I got my first writing job. A corporate job in a sales and marketing department in a new industry, writing tender responses and sales proposals for corporate clients as well as a variety of other types of content aimed at convincing people to hand over fistfuls of money. And I stopped writing in my spare time.
Maybe it had something to do with the amount of writing I was doing. After all, I would go to work and write, then come home and write, then sleep, then wake up and go to work and write, then come home and write some more. It was a lot of writing.
Maybe it had something to do with my social life. I was in my late twenties, early thirties and I didn’t want to be stuck at home every night, refusing invitations. I wanted to be out there mingling, eating, drinking, dancing and generally having a good time.
Maybe it had something to do with finishing my first novel, sending it to every Australian publisher out there and getting zero responses, not even a courtesy “thanks but no thanks” rejection letter.
Whatever the reason or reasons, my creative writing output dwindled to zero. I just didn’t want to write anymore. It wasn’t about motivation, it wasn’t the world’s longest case of writers’ block, I just didn’t want to write anymore.
Four years passed. I enjoyed my corporate writing job. I enjoyed my social life. I enjoyed not being rejected by publishers. I enjoyed not working two jobs at the same time.
But in 2012, I started enjoying my corporate writing job less. I didn’t want to go out all the time. And while I didn’t want to be rejected by publishers again, I wondered what it might be like if I started writing novels again. Maybe I wouldn’t be rejected. Maybe they would be interested in my new material.
It might sound a little strange but I can trace beginning to write again to a small, seemingly unconnected act. I bought a Kobo. A friend had a Kindle and I was attracted by the lightweight portability of the device (I hadn’t stopped reading, after all). And once I had it, I realised it was a new way of being published. One that didn’t rely on getting my novel in front of the right person.
I spent some time revising the novel I’d finished in 2008 and self-published it as an ebook in November 2012. People read it and liked it. And it was as simple as that. It was as simple as beginning that revision. I was writing again.
That was over three years ago. Since then, I’ve finished another novel, written half of two more, started a blog and posted on it over two hundred and fifty times, quit my corporate writing job and spent more than a year writing full time. And I want to keep writing.
That could change again. I could get another job – related to writing or not – and immerse myself into it so deeply that I once again don’t want to write anymore, or at least need to take another four year break. So in the meantime I’m doing as much writing as I can. And loving it. It’s still hard work but I’m loving it. Hopefully you are, too, because this blog is the recipient of a lot of that hard work.
Who knows how important that break might have been? Maybe it was entirely necessary to get my writing mojo back. After all, writing is a job like any other. You can burn out. Maybe I did. Maybe one day you will, too. The important thing is to take that break and then work your way back to writing at a pace that ensures you’re mentally ready. Too soon and you might relapse and convince yourself that writing isn’t really for you at all. And wouldn’t it be a shame? Especially if it isn’t true?
*First published in Project December: A Book about Writing