Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My name is... and I'm a writer

Today I realised something truly horrible. I'm addicted to writing. Not a spare moment goes by without me looking for pen and paper. Even if I'm jotting down a point-form synopsis between laying out pages at work I start feeling twitchy if something isn't on the go.

Thing is, this started when I was still at primary school. Whenever the teachers confiscated the books I'd sneakily read during class (and back then I used to be a straight-A student, which annoyed the living hell out of them when I never paid attention to their lessons), I'd settle for second best by creating my own "magazines" or writing letters to my friends.

Geez, and this got worse during high school. Granted, I'd stopped being so annoyingly studious, (decidedly B-average by then all the way to matric, luv) but the reading and writing problem got worse and worse. By age thirteen I tried writing my first novel, some oddball little SF concoction that never saw the light of day past the first two chapters.

But that's when it hit me. I knew I simply had to write. A brief flirtation with being a Goth-rocker a la Marilyn Manson and a foray into photography afterward, the writing bug bit back hard despite the best efforts of a snarky now-ex who told me "Your writing is too romantic".

So, you may ask why I didn't pursue a literary career earlier on. Simply put, everyone, including my teachers, parents and friends told me, "You can never make a career out of writing."

This went as far as me being accepted for electrical engineering at a university of technology where my father worked. "Be sensible," everyone said. "Get a proper career off the ground, then later when you've got money, pursue your passions."

But all the while this desire to put words down remained itching beneath my skin. Studying a BA in English or literature was out of the question, due to financial reasons and, besides, a degree in "bugger all" won't put a roof over your head.

Thanks be to all the mercies I saw sense six months before I was to start my tertiary education. A hankering need to somehow be involved in the media industry saw me change my study path to graphic design. I figured I'd eventually sit in the editor's chair if I started as a graphic designer, even if I couldn't go get a larny degree in journalism.

Bah. It's been a circuitous route. Doing extremely well when it came to writing about advertising, graphic design and art history should already have been a hint. I should have badgered the folks to let me study that BA after all. Nevertheless, I don't regret my stints in magazine publishing and below the line marketing communications, and now newspaper publishing. I've learnt a lot about how to communicate and how the printing industry works.

But I can't help but wondering how things would have turned out if I'd listened to my heart from the word "go". So, I guess what I'm saying is it's never too late for you to sit back and figure out what your passion is then make a go at it. If you are, however, on the cusp of young adulthood, don't waste your opportunity to make a go at your passion a lot sooner. Life has a rather nasty of getting in the way of your passions when you're trying to make ends meet.

Perhaps a decade of living and working has given me life experience I'd been lacking at age eighteen but I sometimes wonder how things would have turned out otherwise. Would I have written that bestseller by now? This deep-rooted urge to create, to put words down, was shoved aside for so long that it's almost a sin. Thank goodness I've managed to fight my way into a situation where my talents can shine, but how many people out there have been denying this impulse to write, paint, make music, sing, dance...?


Lise said...

What a familiar tale! "You can't make a living at that" was what I heard when I decided after graduating college (degree in Elementary Education though I never found work in the field) and decided to be an actress. 20 years after that my stage career drew to a close, but my creative juices continued to insist on a career of their own. Hence my own writing career. Again, despite early teen years writing poetry, writing essays on various subjects dear to my heart in my wild and impetuous youth, and even during acting writing lengthy "character" sketches for my own characters as writing theatrical plays that no doubt fortunately remain hidden in the depths of my attic. But there is no time like the present - the stories are still there and now we have that much more experience to bring to our tales! Bravo and continued success in following your dream (for us "older" types, never forget the lesson of Helen Hooven Santmyer, author of the tome, And The Ladies of the Club - published when Ms. Santmyer was 88!

Sandra Sookoo said...

LOL Isn't that the truth? If I had listened to that little voice 10 years ago, how far in my career would I have been at this point?

I'm addicted to writing, too. Just last Friday at a movie, a plot point came to me and there I was, scrabbling around in my purse for a pen and something to write on. In the dark I was scribbling on the back of receipts LOL

I'll never change and I'm glad for that.

Robert Appleton said...

Love this, Nerine. A writer at one of my publishers managed to finish a 12-book series before she turned 18! That's more than a child's passion; that's parental and family support, and lots of it. I'm miffed that my school didn't encourage me more to be a writer. Even though I was top of the class all the way through, no one even mentioned it as a valid career for me. I had to find it for myself.

I also hate the notion that an artist's path SHOULD be a struggle, so that he/she can find inspiration in adversity. I mean geez, isn't writing tough enough already without the deck being stacked against you from school onwards?

Thanks for sharing, Nerine! Wishing you huge success with your upcoming books!

Melissa said...

Oh, I hear you! My dad had the same battle cry, which is why my primary degrees are all in engineering. Got to get the pegigrees in something "responsible" that will pay the bills. Irony grabs life by the short and curlies, being a reporter paid twice as well as engineering ever did. Go figure. Now I have an awesome excuse for keeping mini-tablets with me as well as a netbook, brain damage! *cough* that and being a writer ;) Some would say that is not exactly unrelated...LOL!