Friday, 17 January 2020

The Chapters of Chasing Dreams: Part 1- A Wake-up Call

Part 1: A Wake-Up Call

Becoming a writer, especially a writer of children's stories, was never a lightbulb moment for me. It is something that has been with me since I can remember. The majority of my childhood memories come accompanied with the image of a book or a notepad:
  • Me curled up with a book on a bean bag (my nickname, by the way, very quickly became Beanie Bum).
  • Me scribbling stories in the back of the car on our long treks down to Cornwall.
  • Me winning the poetry prize at primary school.
  • Me reading my work aloud to my long suffering family.
It was my dream to write tales that would be read and enjoyed by a host of younger readers - so much so that if I didn't achieve it then I didn't understand why I had been put on this planet. It was and remains the essence of me.

So why then, if that was my aspiration when I was still in single figures, have I not achieved it by the age of 39?

Because, as with many of us, life got in the way. I wanted to live in Cornwall, I needed financial independence, therefore I needed a job that paid.

So I abandoned my dream for a career in primary teaching.

Actually, it wasn't quite as cut and dried at that. It feels like I abandoned my dream but, looking back, I can see that really I never stopped writing. Teaching became a creative outlet for me and telling stories was a huge part of that. I even did an oral story-telling course and adapted well know fairytales into oral performances. 
Then there were the endless diaries and journals, even the odd story idea scribbled on the inside covers...but as a self-indulgent twenty something, I was writing about my life, my thoughts and feelings...

until motherhood took over. Three children in five years and I was in a fog.

And then, at the age of 36 I got my wake-up call.

In early May 2017 I took a train back from London to Cornwall after a training day for a marking job. This was the second year I'd done it and so it marked the year anniversary since I'd last been away from the children and home. Revelling in the five hours of 'me' time ahead and having exhausted every book and magazine on the outbound journey, I did something I hadn't done in a long time...I took out a brand new notebook and started to write a rhyming children's story.

I will forever wonder about the timing of that decision...because exactly three days later I had a phone call that changed my life. My father, the man who has instilled in me my love of books and writing, was dead - killed in a freak car accident. 

Suddenly I was back on a train to Birmingham with my mother and sister waiting for me and I had exactly five hours to think about what on earth I was going to say, or do, when I saw them.

I had no idea.

So, to stop myself worrying, I took out my notebook and carried on with the story I had begun a few days earlier. By the time the train pulled in, I had a full first draft.

How inappropriate it sounds, how inappropriate it bury myself in a tale about a boy hunting for marshmallows when we'd been plunged into the darkness of grief.

If it was shock then I've never recovered from it because from that day onwards I began writing with a new and determined focus and I very clearly knew why:

  • If I was to be faced with a long tunnel of blackness whilst raising a young family then I absolutely needed something positive to pull me through it.
  • Writing was my dad's legacy to me. I hadn't always been the best daughter but one day I would absolutely make him proud and prove that the hours of time he invested in me would never be wasted.
  • Life is too short to not chase your dreams - if I hadn't stopped, maybe my dad would have been alive to see me achieve them. If I don't do it now, will I live to achieve them?
There's not always a right time to realise your biggest ambitions. But to quote J.K Rowling through the legendary voice of Dumbledore: "“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ― (Harry Potter and the The Prisoner of Azkaban). Writing was my light. It was just a shame it took such a shake-up to get me back on route.

Chasing dreams has never been destined to be easy. But this was the first chapter in my revived attempt...

            and almost three years later, I don't regret it for a second.

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