I’d like to be able to say, like many writers do, that I’ve been writing all my life. It would be true, up to a point. I was lucky that both my parents love reading, so I can’t remember a time when stories and imagination weren’t part of my life, and can’t comprehend living in a house that isn’t full of books. Some of my earliest memories are of being read ‘The Hobbit’ at bedtime. I was writing stories as soon as I was able to. I remember by about 8 or 9 I was obsessed with period costume, filling exercise books with tales in which my characters time-travelled to enjoy their adventures fully kitted-out in elaborate finery. But still managed always, always to be home in time for tea.
But around the time I entered my teens, it all stopped. Stories, poetry, the lot. Writing became about essays and exams. Explore and analyse the author/poet/playwright’s use of the metaphor…
I left school with an unremarkable academic record, then graduated with a First in Music having spent 3 years having a ball and discovering my voice as a singer. Three years of organising concerts and events, persuading local businesses to sponsor and donate, writing programme notes, promoting…I’d never been so busy, or so happy. That experience took me into marketing, taking my first tentative steps into a ‘real’ career.
Twenty years on, I’ve worked in advertising, retail packaging, event management and branding. I’ve managed accounts ranging from luxury brands, drinks (from alcopops (ssh!) to continental lager to premium cognac), FMCG and travel. (I’m not going to list them all here – check out my CV on Linked In if you’re curious) I’ve spent the last few years in Higher Education, in University marketing. It’s not all been about students – it’s involved building a successful business venue, developing and marketing services to small businesses, and looking at the approach to customer service. It’s also been about becoming a manager of people – managing a small, high-performing team in an in-house marketing department, effectively running an in-house agency. I’m good at it. We’ve been very successful.
Remember that childhood writing? Throughout my twenties and thirties, I periodically picked up a pencil and started to scribble. Something was in there, trying to get out. Two years ago I took an MA in Creative Writing and realised that my dissatisfaction with my career so far was this: in the agency world I’d come from, the teams were often split into the Account Management (the suits) and the designers, photographers and writers (the creative). All my working life I’ve been one of the ‘suits’.
I’m intensely, passionately creative. Now I’ve started, I can’t stop. I write daily. Whether I’m developing the next chapter of a novel, writing a short story or blog entry, or just scribbling about something I’ve seen that inspired me today, the words just don’t stop coming.
In my working life, that translates into an obsession with well-conceived, carefully crafted copy. I don’t want to manage people any more (if any of my team is reading this – you are all wonderful people, and I’d rather be your friend than your manager). Twenty years of dealing with office politics and that Sunday evening/Monday morning feeling is enough. I want to use my experience of marketing, my understanding of audiences and my writing talents to write great copy for a living.
And maybe a novel or two. But that, as they say, is another story. And it’s time for tea.