Okay, so I should be writing other stuff but I’ve decided to write about why I write and how I came to be a Writer – yes, with a capital ‘w’.
Always wanted to, was a prolific reader, merit-award winning short-story writer in primary school – blah blah the usual backstory.
Finished school, aced English, wanted to be a writer but it’s not really a job so I needed – according to, like EVERYONE – “something to fall back on”. So, yes, I did a communications degree and thought journalism sounded half-way respectable. Turns out my three years as a pathetic undergraduate convinced me it was everything but. Disillusioned I turned to that other profession which harbours the unrealised dreams of many an idealistic author forced to make a living – teaching. As luck would have it I was released from the stranglehold of frustration and thwarted ambition which teaching can foist on the unsuspecting by falling pregnant and fleeing from the unholy hell which that world was for me. Okay – I exaggerate a tiny bit. Tiny.
My desire to write was always swirling like a glasses-clad nerd on the fringes of the second coolest group in the playground. It just never had the nerve to step up. With two kids under two I had no time to actually do anything but lots of time to fantasise. Being a real, honest-to- goodness writer featured heavily. Yes, this is the untamed and secret life of a desperate housewife such as me.
It was around this time that I stumbled across Sydney’s Child – a magazine which, despite the proliferation of ads for everything the modern parent has no use for needs had intelligent and insightful articles which were different from some of the usual parenting rubbish getting around. I wistfully imagined a day when I could see my name published there. But I had more babymaking to do.
I fell pregnant with our third child four years ago. That pregnancy ended in our daughter’s stillbirth at 21 weeks. What I thought would be a few more years of Play-Doh and finger-painting turned into months of grief, shock and a re-examination of my life. All of this was compounded when our further attempts at becoming pregnant ended in miscarriage – four to date. It became clear that life had other plans for me.
My best friend nudged me gently in the direction of the dream I had shared with her since we were girls and encouraged me to take yet another short writing course at the local adult education centre. It was just the thing I needed to propel me out of my existential funk. At the urging of my tutor I entered a short story competition. Of course I wrote about one of the most defining moments of my life at this point – the stillbirth of my daughter.
I was beyond stoked when I was shortlisted in the inaugural My Child Magazine/Parenting Express short story competition. I was even more thrilled when I became runner-up. My story, The Lightness of Dark was the first piece I ever had accepted for publication – and I am still incredibly proud of it.
At this point I should issue a warning – don’t read my story if you have had a child in the last two years or are likely to in the next nine months. I have found – after traumatising some close friends – that this particular piece is not a great mix with pregnancy hormones and the sensitivities of the early days of parenting.
It turns out that this was just the start for me. In my next post I’ll write about what happened next.