When I was a child, I always had this image of how my life would be when I was older. The key age I saw myself as was in my thirties. This, to me, was when I would be most grown up. At this age, I decided, I would have my own home, a good career, lots of confidence and a husband with a few kids maybe. Whenever I thought about the future, or I was unhappy in the present, I would see this future me, frozen in time, in stylish clothes, with perfect hair and a big smile, cruising through life, knowing all the answers. I decided that at this age, things would be how I wanted them to be. I would be living the life that I wanted.
It’s taken a lot of time between then and that point for me to realise that life is very different to how you imagine. Those idealised views aren’t always as possible as you imagine, filtered illusions of the future become distorted and changed over time. It takes hard work, sacrifice and a lot of luck to make it to the place you want to be. Even then, sometimes you discover it’s actually not what you thought it would be, or it’s not what you really wanted at all. After all, what you dream as a child and what you aspire to as an adult can be very different, depending on the life you have growing up.
From a young age I always wanted to be a writer. I loved reading and writing my own stories, my imagination was always in overload, looking for the next creative challenge. Roald Dahl opened a magical world for me, followed by Enid Blyton and later R.L Stine, Stephen King and a host of other contemporary authors. I never really decided I wanted to be a writer. I think I just knew that that’s what I was meant to do. It’s cheesy I know but it’s like it chose me. The imagination, the drive and the desire was there. Everything else just depended on luck and circumstance. I had some positive comments about my creative imagination in school and went on to do well in English at GCSE and A Level . I studied English and Creative Writing at uni. Even during this period of my teens and early twenties I always figured that’s what I’d end up doing, not really realising how hard it was. I never considered giving up. I still don’t.
After Uni, and a small taste of success, with publication in the university anthology, I took menial jobs while still working on different projects. Short novels, short stories, poetry, flash fiction. I gave anything a go and I entered lots of competitions. I did well in some, making it to the shortlist, but never winning any big prizes. I’ve had my work published locally in magazines and newspapers and nationally in Mslexia magazine. I was offered a place on a mentoring course with a small publisher in North Wales who loved my work. I really enjoyed the course and got lots out of it, including an improved manuscript, but am still trying to find a publisher for this book. I took part in some work placements, at two small publishers and a local Theatre. I continued to write, because that’s what drove me. Looking back now, I can see that I was making progress, small progress, but progress all the same. However, compared to the view of my future life, seen through the eyes of that imaginative ten-year old, it seemed rather different.
Then, I started reviewing for Theatre Wales, through my voluntary work for the local theatre. Years later, I took up a freelance job at a local newspaper, writing about local arts from Film and theatre, to arts exhibitions and creative events. After a year, I became the freelance reporter for my local area covering local news and events. I loved this job, as it involved writing every week, using my own initiative to find stories and create interesting articles for readers. Getting out and about to meet people helped my confidence and opened up my eyes to what was going on locally. I made some good friends and valuable contacts during my time working for the newspaper. I also learnt a lot about how print media works as well as writing non fiction for a variety of readers. Plus my skills were obviously good enough to finally be paid for! Unfortunately, this job came to an end and for a while I wasn’t sure where to go next. I’d always worked full-time job’s alongside my creative projects, knowing full well that the money was not enough to live on just yet. But I always had that craving for more creativity, more diversity and new challenges in my life.
So when I saw that Arts Scene in Wales were looking for reviewers, I jumped a the chance. Sure, technically it wasn’t a paid position, but expenses were covered and the exposure was great for my writing CV. With ASIW I’ve reviewed Theatre Productions across Wales, ranging from small stage productions by companies such as Torch Theatre Company, Theatr Mwldan and Mappi Mundi covering classics like The Turn of the Screw, The Woman in Black, She Stoops to Conquer and Pride and Prejudice, to touring West End productions such as Sister Act starring Alexandra Burke. I love doing this job because I get to write about something I love. It’s also lovely to have such positive feedback about my reviews and to see people engaging with them via the website or social media. They are also sometimes quoted in Theatre marketing which is always great to see. I never would have thought that I would end up reviewing theatre. Yet i’m so glad that I do.
I also do book reviews for Mslexia Max, Mslexa magazine’s online forum. They send me poetry, short stories and novels every few months to write about for their reviews section. I love being part of this too. I think it’s important for a writer to be actively involved in the arts, in as many ways as they can. I think it feeds the creativity, the living breathing desire for that spark. To feel something and to connect.
At the end of last year, the final step in my creative journey was realised. I had long known that I needed to find a day job that was more creative, that added to my personality and to my career goals. I needed something that was stimulating and in an environment that helped me to be creative, to be around other creative people. Finding that job has taken years. It has proved frustrating at times. Writing was not enough. I needed to know that there was more out there, that there were other creative types, that there were other things going on, exciting, innovative, collaborative things. I needed to feel that all of this was possible, that it happened every day.
I started working for my local Theatre, (the one in which I did some marketing volunteering when I’d left uni), at the end of last year. It didn’t take me long to realise that this was where I needed to be. Surrounded by creative people, by writers, actors, creative thinkers, readers, photographers, arts people. In this environment, I feel happy, inspired, free to be myself. If I look at the many areas of my life, I feel as of things are finally coming together to create a whole. I have a job that is more creative, I write reviews for theatre and a writing magazine, I also tutor English, I am getting to the end of my second novel – admittedly I do tend to procrastinate – and in my spare time (I get some believe it or not!) I am free to do whatever else inspires me or relaxes me, such as baking, watching films, going for long walks and spending time with family and friends.
So if I look back at my ten-year old self, imagining a future me, with this perfect life and all the answers. I think I’d just say to her that there’s no set path in life. Some people make it in their 20’s, others take a lot longer to find their true happiness. I finally feel like I am where I belong in life. I may not have the big house or the family of my own just yet, yes i still struggle with my confidence sometimes, and I don’t always look stylish, but I’m happy and i’m doing something that I love. That’s got to count for something, right? Being in your thirties does feel different from you’d imagine. It comes with all those added pressures that you put on yourself. But there’s no set rules as to where your life should be at this point. You make your own rules. I’ve certainly made mine. Truth is, it feels great!