Have you found your mojo in your creative life? I got back into creative writing about three years ago, and the impetus for me was the looming Big 4-0 deadline. I don’t know what it is about a significant birthday to light a fire under my butt, but it worked. I wanted to try writing a novel. A romance novel, since I had an idea revolving around relationships.
I did it. I’ve kept writing and have already found some success. But you know what? I did it with very little support from the world around me, apart from my fabulous husband.
As a woman ‘of a certain age’ i.e. forty one and three quarters, I loathe the assumptions that go with being a woman at this stage of life, let alone one who wants to tackle a creative project or a career change.
Here’s a few crazy assumptions, just for starters:
- If you’re over about 30, you can’t start a brand new career because you’re probably ‘past it’.
- If you’re a woman, you’ll only be worried about ‘settling down’ and being married/having babies/buying shoes/raising cats/collecting kitchen accessories.
- If you’re interested in writing, you’ll only want to write (or read) ‘mummy blogs’ or ‘mummy porn’* (insert dismissive comment and raised eyebrows here).
- If you like to read, you’re probably only reading romance novels, which as everyone knows are problematic or sexist or unrealistic or… (insert unfair assumption here).
- If you are a mum, a wife, and a part-time worker, a woman who enjoys fashion, or cooking, or wine, whatever, you can’t be anything else.
- Somehow your kids will be disadvantaged if you have any kind of creative life, or your relationship with your partner will suffer. So, you shouldn’t even try it.
That’s it, done and dusted, get back in your box, woman. As Alicia Silverstone would say in the movie Clueless, “As if!”.
As someone who decided at the age of thirty eight to tackle creative writing in a serious way, and who has gone at it with the tenacity of a multitasking mummy-ninja, I can tell you all of the above are such cliches they’re not even funny.
I believe I can achieve things. I’ve already had three distinct ‘careers’ and will probably have a couple more. I work hard and I’m always interested in learning something new. I am ‘settled’, married with kids, living a suburban life, but that’s not all I am. I like to read everything: news, think pieces, literary fiction, romance, science fiction, blogs, non-fiction. I enjoy reading light-hearted and romantic books, for entertainment.
I can be lots of things, and I will be, probably all at once. I’ve always believed, strangely enough, that I am a person. I am me. I’m good at writing, I love reading and thinking of creative ideas. Always have done, probably always will do. My age and my gender have nothing to do with it. It’s other people who have weird, narrow-minded opinions.
Just do it! Time waits for no woman
Sure, I’m busy. Sure, I have young children. Sure, there’s never enough hours in the day to do all the things I need to do, let alone the things I want to do. But that’s life. It rushes by at supersonic speed while you’re busy doing the washing or cleaning the kitchen, until all of a sudden it’s getting hard to remember the things you always wanted to do, but never found time for.
The good news is those things you never had time for are still there in your head. At least the potential things are. I realised that nobody has time, that you have to make time to write if it’s important to you. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather look back and think that I’m proud to have worked hard and written a book, rather than spent all of that time cleaning the floors.
All I needed to do was block out the negative voices and get started. For me, that internal decision was all it took. It was time. Time to start, time to get going, time to write.
If you’re thinking about writing – perhaps characters have whole conversations in your head over your morning coffee, or you overhear conversations in a café and you have to jot them down in a notebook, or you keep a journal – my advice is, just start.
Get creative. Write something. Anything. Maybe it will be a poem, or a romance novel. Maybe you’ll take an epic photograph. Maybe you’ll dive straight into the madness of writing a novel in a month or enter a writing contest like I did. Whatever you create, you’ll have something that never existed before in the world. Your work, your thoughts.
Here’s the thing about starting – it’s exciting. It opens up your mind to possibilities you may not have considered before. You may find that you have a whole pile of ideas waiting, based on your life experiences and the stories of people around you. There are benefits to having a few years under your belt!
Creative work can keep you sane
An unexpected by-product of a creative life, for me, is staying sane in an increasingly crazy world. Connecting to inner thoughts and writing them down, taking quiet time-out to read, away from television and other distractions or simply taking a walk and letting your mind unwind can all be helpful for creativity. They can also help reduce stress and keep you mentally well.
As a mother of two young children, I’ve found this surprising and most welcome. Carving time out for myself and my creative work has made me calmer, more mentally present and aware. And my kids love giving me crazy story ideas! I still need to write that book about an undercover, secret brick…
Define your own success
Success doesn’t have to be defined by best-seller status or winning awards. Although if some awards were thrown in my general direction, I’d probably reach out and try to catch them.
But success can be defined in many ways, such as finishing a first draft of a book or a new piece of art. That’s something a lot of people will never achieve. Or the goal could be to get that book polished and submit it to a publisher. Maybe it could simply be showing a short story to some readers and having them enjoy your work.
And you never know what might happen. One day, someone might read your work (or see your art, whatever medium you work in) and absolutely love it. Seriously, it could happen.
Here I am, having written (almost) three novels and a few shorter works, taking a leap and jumping in head first to the world of book publishing and being an author. My creative life is taking off. Wish me luck!
P.S. My kids didn’t starve and my husband didn’t leave me. But thanks for all the unsolicited comments and predictions of doom, naysayers and busybodies. #sarcasm
*P.P.S. I hate the term ‘mummy porn’ and believe it was invented by male book reviewers to belittle women writers who tackle sexual content…use that term in my presence at your peril!
P.P.P.S. My debut romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, is being released by Avon Maze/HarperCollins UK on 18 July 2016. Hooray!