Every author’s journey is different. Some start with all guns blazing and have half a dozen novels under their belt by the time they’re 30. Others take up different careers, raise families and begin writing later in life when they have more time and freedom. For some, it’s a desire they’ve had buried deep inside for years; others discover a passion for writing they never knew they had.
I think my journey would best be described by the Beatles’ song The Long and Winding Road. Lots of detours and dead-ends. But to give myself credit, there have been some good straight stretches. And although each author’s journey is unique, there’s one thing we all have in common – no matter what obstacles we encounter, that shining passion deep within us won’t be quelled and we’ll always find a way.
Like most writers, my love of writing began in my childhood. I loved books from an early age (Enid Blyton was a favourite) and above is a photo of me in bed with my younger brother reading a Noddy book to him. (Or my four year old version of pretend reading. Note all the books strewn on the bed – a gluttony of early morning reading!) In primary and high school I excelled in English, won prizes in writing competitions and spent a lot of my spare time curled up in an armchair engrossed in a book. I think my childhood was pretty typical of many authors.
The only career I was interested in pursuing when I left school was journalism. Although there were university courses available, it was widely regarded that the best way to get employment as a journalist was to win a cadetship with a newspaper, which in my hometown of Brisbane was the Courier Mail. Each year there were hundreds of applications for a handful of positions. As well, my parents thought that due to my shy, introverted nature I wasn’t suited to journalism, where I’d be required to conduct interviews and investigations and other people-oriented tasks.
So I didn’t apply for a cadetship – why bother? With all that competition, I wouldn’t have a chance. And not having the belief in my abilities to pursue my chosen career regardless, I undertook a degree in the social sciences, where my creative writing abilities were put to use padding out boring essays on sociology theory at 3am on the day they were due.
During my twenties my writing ambitions lay dormant as I finished my degree and obtained employment in social welfare. In my late twenties I married and it wasn’t until I was 31, at home with a toddler and a baby and going crazy with the lack of mental stimulation, that my love of writing was rekindled. I enrolled in a correspondence course in freelance journalism, selling my much-loved 12 string guitar to pay for it. (A wise decision, as it turned out – as a guitarist, I make a great author).
If there was one major turning point in my life, this was it. I loved the course and when a couple of articles that I wrote as assignments were accepted by magazines, that sealed it. Not only was my latent belief in my ability to write validated, I could actually earn money from it as well!
Over the next fifteen years or so, I worked part-time as a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines while bringing up my family. One of my gigs was a weekly column in my local newspaper in which I chronicled the ups and downs of family life. I attracted a wide, enthusiastic following of family members, assorted ring-ins who were forced by those family members to read the columns, lovingly cut out and preserved in plastic sleeves, and two motley dogs. Needless to say my children, whose escapades were frequently the butt, I mean, topic of my columns were not amongst those followers.
Over the years I’d dabbled in short story writing and sent some stories away to magazines, with no luck. That was the extent of my creative writing until 2002. By this stage I was divorced with teenage children, and had dived into the uncharted (at that time) waters of internet dating. My experiences gave me an idea for a novel and 18 months later the final draft of my first novel Perfect Sex was completed. No-one was more surprised than I, as novel writing had never been on my agenda.
‘Never again,’ I groaned, but like a mother forgetting the pain of childbirth when planning her next child, I was soon engrossed in novel number two. So now I’m hooked and have been writing novels ever since, with occasional forays into short story writing for variety. To cut a long story short, I had no luck with getting Perfect Sex accepted for publication (the digital publishing revolution was yet to happen) so it languished in my virtual bottom drawer, until I hauled it out many years later and gave it a total makeover. Novel number two has taken the place of Perfect Sex in my bottom drawer and by 2013, when I was ready to publish my next novel, How Not To Commit Murder as well as Perfect Sex, indie publishing was in full swing.
As I outlined in my last post I’m now at work on a novella. Like many authors I also have a day job, but my aim is to become a full-time author. It has been a long and winding road, but I took the scenic route and got there in the end. And the advantage of coming to fiction later in life is that you have a wealth of life experience to draw on.
What song best describes your author’s journey? I’d love to hear about it – please share in the comments below.
Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.