“Anyone who wants to say goodbye should come this morning,” said the voice. He was very clear that we should not leave it until the afternoon.
The doctor had called about six in the morning to tell me that my mother was not going to recover from the pneumonia that had seen her stricken in a hospital bed for the past two weeks.
After calling my brother I waited for it to be very definitely morning, this being a Sunday after all, before telephoning my uncle and aunt, my mother’s brother and sister. Whilst the doctors had prepared us for the news, when the news finally came it transpired that we weren’t.
The hours which immediately followed that call were surprisingly joyful and uplifting. We gathered round my mum’s bed, my brother and I with my aunties, uncle, cousins to say goodbye to my mother who was peaceful but not with us.
The hospital room was packed with family coming and going and when you get that many people together in a confined space you can’t help but say things that are funny, remember half forgotten stories which will prompt someone else around the bed to lob in the other half. The sadness came once everyone had gone, after we had watched them say a barely audible goodbye to our mum and left.
It was whilst I was swimming in a clear and calm sea about six weeks later that I finally let my thoughts drift. I had taken my daughters on a last minute all inclusive sunshine holiday, I felt I needed it. It was at that moment, silent and alone, floating in the sea, I first realised I was in many ways free.
My father had passed away five years previously. I am not sure you can be called an orphan when you are a grown up but whatever you called me I was now without the expectations and conventions of being a daughter.
Whilst my parents were not wealthy, they owned a house so I had a small amount of cash in the bank which meant that feeding my daughters might not now solely rely on my leaving work on Friday and getting back there on time on Monday. I had some choices. Unexpected and unwanted but nevertheless my parents had gone and I was left with choices.
I went to see a talk given by Adele Parks about a year after my mum had died. I am always interested to hear what successful authors have to say and she spoke of an event in her early 20s which prompted her to write. Chatting to her afterwards I told her that I had lost both my parents, my mother fairly recently. After expressing her condolences she used the word liberating and that was precisely the word that described how I felt.
Bobbing about silently in the Cretian sea I had let my thoughts examine what I could do with some of the money I now had: open a shop, maybe a little cafe somewhere, perhaps invest in a business, invest in someone else’s business. When I was eventually hit by the realisation of what I could do, I had to thrust my feet straight down on to the soft sandy seabed to stop me dunking under the waves.
I could invest in me. I could take some time out and invest in me. Actually write my book. Get it done. Back in my hotel room I gave myself a strong hard look in the mirror and asked myself if I truly believed. I began to mull it over, this revelation. I considered it as I would have done a business proposition.
How much of my money would I be willing to invest? How much time off would that pay for? Would that be sufficient time to give writing my book a proper go? Did I feel the idea was commercial enough to sell? Would it be worth the investment? Did I think I could write a book that had a chance of being published? Was I willing to lose that money if I didn’t find a publisher? If the idea was good enough was I?
I was excited to find that the answers to all those questions were yes. I did believe in myself. I knew I was a good writer. I had confidence that the premise for the book was an interesting one. I could see it in Waterstones and being discussed at a book club. My parents had both died in their sixties, longevity was not in my genes, being a writer was the only thing I had ever wanted to do so I felt I would rather fail having given it a good go then never having properly tried.
My visit to the Adele Parks event happened a couple of weeks after I had finally handed in my notice. I was full of excitement and champing at the bit to get going. Working my notice I had spent every spare minute drafting character profiles, considering plot twists, developing structure and chapter breakdowns so I was in the best shape possible to get going on that first Monday when I no longer had to clock in at 8.30.
The word liberation that Adele Parks had used was an apt one for me. Of course the financial aspect provided my safety net and made all the difference. But also the loss of my parents was liberating. My mother was a very anxious lady. She worried and fretted enormously, especially over me, her only daughter, now I was a single mother with two children.
The smallest thing would grow to outrageous proportions in her head. The idea that I would tell her I was giving up a good, secure and well paid job to go and write a book was laughable. And she loved my writing. She had instilled in me my fascination with stories. She would have desperately wanted me to be a published author, but strangely enough I couldn’t have made the big move that took me closer to achieving it while she was alive.
Take yourself seriously was another nugget of advice that Adele Parks gave me and I treated writing my manuscript like a job. Each morning, I dropped my daughters at school, was back at my desk at 9am and wrote through until 3pm when I had to go and collect them. I didn’t meet friends for coffee or long lunches, I wasn’t distracted by daytime TV, I didn’t go to the gym, I refused to do the chores.
I focussed on getting it done. And the harder I worked, the easier it became and the more I enjoyed it. The story and the characters filled my head in a way that was never possible when I was writing only at the weekend. Issues over plot and pace which revealed themselves as I wrote the book were solved more simply as I was immersed in this world. I loved it. This was what I wanted to do.
And here I am a year later. I completed the first draft of the manuscript during my four month break from work. It has had positive feedback from a group of beta readers, an independent editor and two agents. I now have a writing blog, a website and a modest but growing Twitter account.
I have gone back to work (we all have mortgages to pay) but I found another great, secure, well paid job quickly. The book isn’t published and that’s disappointing as this was my goal, but whilst it is doing the rounds of agents and competitions I have embarked upon book number two with great enthusiasm and purpose. Having written one manuscript I know I can write another one.
I feel I have made some bold decisions, invested in myself and given me the best chance I can of being a published author. But most importantly, I feel like a writer now.
Find out more about Lindsay on her website: www.lindsaycomplin.com
Follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/lindsaycomplin
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- Deciding To Be A Writer | WordHarbour | May 18, 2016