When I started my reinvention project, it was done with a delicious sense of freedom. The question was simple: if I could do anything in the world, what would it be? The exercises and coaching I did as part of Chrysalis followed the well-practiced rules of brainstorming: throw all ideas into the mix and don’t censor your thoughts with the how; just let the ideas flow – however crazy they may seem.
And when I decided at 40 that I would like to start again as a writer it felt like a fantasy – a completely ridiculous ‘if I won the lottery’ type fantasy. But I followed the rules and ignored the doubts running round my head in their heavy boots; I attacked the ‘don’t be so ridiculous’ thoughts with ‘why the hell not’ ones and I let the fantasy develop.
But of course, at some point, you do have to start thinking of the hows and making a plan of how you’re going to turn the dream into a reality. I started by doing guest posts on established blogs and I did some paid travel writing for a travel website (well, it just about counted as paid).
Then over the last couple of months I have looked more seriously into how to make a living out of writing, because at this stage, I don’t know what I don’t know. I researched how to go about getting paid writing gigs, searched writing job websites to understand more about what is out there and what the rates of pay are (shocking) and I have learned from the wisdom of other freelance writers. And whilst I knew I couldn’t waltz into top paid writing jobs (hi Grazia, about that weekly column…), and I knew that I would have to build up a CV, I wasn’t expecting to find the path to Grazia paved with so many extremely low paid jobs.
My love affair with writing is not in question. But love is only part of the picture; that love has to be accompanied with some level of status and money for it be a career that will give me the sense of kudos I am craving. What I am doing now via blogging is a wonderful apprenticeship, but it’s just the start. I have to continue to increase my portfolio outside of the blog, and see if I’m good enough to compete against other – invariably more experienced – writers. I had thought the next step was to apply for paid writing work, but after seeing the types of writing jobs I can realistically go for at this stage – and the appalling pay – I’ve had a rethink.
So like any good plan, it’s been tweaked along the way – I’ve decided I’m going to do more unpaid gigs and focus on writing for the right type of websites. I know I have to earn my stripes and I am competing with people who have a lot more experience than I do – someone my age may have 20 years writing experience. And it is competitive out there: a popular travel site opened its doors to guest posting last week, in the first week the site received 1000 submissions! (They are going to publish my article though, I think it’s in a queue with the other successful submissions.)
And hey, starting again was never going to be an easy option was it? It’s like me saying to you: your current life stops today and tomorrow you will decide on a new one. Exactly. A great conversation to have over a glass of wine, but not so easy to implement in the sober light of reality.
I am also looking at other options – I reviewed my CV the other day for the first time in eight years; it was incredibly strange to remind myself of all the skills and experience I have (and to remind myself I have an MBA). So I know there are lots of other roads to kudos I can take. And in reality this route may provide an easier way to earn decent money. And whilst it’s not just about money, I think salary is part of status. Although I only want to work three days a week, and good part-time jobs are hard to find, especially in the current climate. So there are plenty of challenges with this option too (not to mention explaining an eight year career break!)
But these are good challenges to be working through. I love my life and career is really the only area I need to sort; it’s the last piece of getting my life back. And of course, starting a new life after eight years is not going to happen over night. It needs time and thought – and possibly some luck. But I am not in a rush (was that me speaking? Jeez, I have learnt something!) I am enjoying my life just the way it is, I just know that the way it is at the moment isn’t enough forever. Feeling that I am achieving something has always been a big part of who I am, a part that needs feeding like my Green and Black’s addiction.
I feel excited about having options, excited about seeing what the universe throws my way. And there is no pressure on me to rush back into earning, after eight years we are more than used to living without my salary. I know how lucky this makes me – having the space to breathe, to dream, to learn, to grow, now that is a good place to be.