Continuing my occasional guest post series, inspired by my Dreams and Regrets post, today I’m very pleased to host Clare Mackintosh (who some of you may remember better as Emily Carlisle from More than Just a mother), who has a slightly different take on the situation. Over to Clare.
Discovering, in my early thirties, that I could write words other people wanted to read, was like being handed the key to a new world. At the time I was working as a Police Inspector, pulling between fifty and sixty hours a week, and rarely getting home in time to put my three children – then aged 2, 1 and 1 – to bed. I wanted to make radical changes, but leaving a organisation I loved was an even bigger decision than joining it in the first place. Who would I be without the uniform? How would we live without my salary? What would we do without the promise of my pension?
After a long shift at work one day I joined friends for drinks. Thanks to an incident at work I was several hours late, missing dinner and most of the fun, but I caught three or four of the girls for a final drink before last orders. They were chilled out, well-fed and slightly tipsy. I was tired, still wearing half-blues, and filled with new resolve. I shared my plans. I was going to quit my secure, well paid job, with excellent promotion prospects, and work from home as a freelance writer. I would look after the children, pitch features to magazines, and write a novel.
There was an awkward pause while my friends adjusted their features into something approximating support. ‘It’s a lovely idea,’ one said. ‘Wouldn’t that be wonderful!’ another contributed. They looked at each other. ‘Don’t you think it would be better to keep writing as something nice you do for yourself?’ the third said. ‘So as not to take the fun out of it?’ The others nodded eagerly, pleased someone had put so succinctly into words what they were all thinking. No-one shared my excitement. No-one offered support, practical suggestions or an iota of encouragement. Perhaps they didn’t think I could do it. Perhaps they were just concerned for me. Perhaps it’s something they would never have done themselves. Whatever the reason, it served only to strengthen my determination.
I am a natural goal-setter. I don’t believe in having idle dreams: if you want something, and it’s realistic, then you should do it. In my mind then – and indeed now – becoming a writer was no different a goal than becoming a doctor, or a teacher, or a mechanic. You check you have the skills; you draw up a list of actions needed; then you just bloody well do it. I believe firmly that everyone is capable of achieving their goals, and nothing makes me crosser than parents, friends or colleagues who dismiss someone’s realistic goals as nothing more than idle dreams. Ignore the nay-sayers and just do it. I did.
Clare Mackintosh is a freelance feature writer and a columnist for Cotswold Life. She has written for a variety of publiciations, including The Guardian, Sainsbury’s Magazine, The Green Parent, WI Life and Practical Parenting. Earlier this year she signed a two-book publishing deal with Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown. She blogs at Clare Mackintosh