It was one of those FaceBook memory things, the ones that pop up and take you unawares, because you realise just how quickly time passes without you noticing – crumbs, has it really been three years since I posted this?
‘Just to say that I’ve taken another plunge and have handed in my notice at work. Slightly scary, but dealing with a wretched chest infection for three weeks has given me plenty time to think, and I realise it’s time for the old ‘pastures new’ thing. So I’m going to be a lady of leisure from the end of March (Well, apart from the novel I need to finish asap and the uni course starting in September…!)’
It sounds like a cliche to say I can’t believe how much has happened since then, but it’s absolutely true – I was working in a mental health recovery unit at the time, which brought its fair share of stresses and strains. I wasn’t particularly fulfilled there and had the feeling I ought to be doing something else, but like all of us, the need to go out and earn my pennies kept me from exploring anything else. But things had started to change, almost without me being aware of it.
I’d started writing again, for the first time since being at school, and had some success with short story competitions – but my short stories always felt like mini-novels, and I’d begun a crime novel set in the Highlands, a police procedural that would eventually become ‘Shadow Man’. And I’d seen an advert for a crime-writing course that for once, wasn’t taking place at the other end of the country, with two amazing tutors, Louise Welsh and Val McDermid.
Now, I don’t believe in fate, but I do think sometimes we get a little ‘nudge’ in a certain direction, and it’s up to us whether we take heed of it or not. Even so, giving up my job and a steady income was horribly scary, and if I hadn’t had a really supportive other half saying, ‘Just do it’ (and very importantly, with the financial security blanket to make that feasible), it really wouldn’t have been an option. Even winning the Good Housekeeping competition and having the book published hasn’t made writing full-time a sustainable way of earning a living – that day may come, but it’s a long way off yet!
I gave myself a year to see whether things would work out, and very luckily, they did. But I’m well aware things could have been very different – so this is both a ‘count your blessings’ and ‘cautionary tale’ post rolled into one, I suppose. Wherever you are in your writing journey, whatever choices you make, I wish you all the luck in the world.
Ooh, and just a quick reminder – the 2018 Good Housekeeping competition is open until 30th March… 😉