The biggest risk I ever took and why it was totally worth it
For as long as I can remember, all I’ve ever wanted to be was a writer. Any kind of writer - I didn’t care – I simply wanted to be able to tell anyone who might happen to ask, "I write for a living."
I’ll be honest now; I may have thought there was a chance of me becoming the next J K Rowling. That was the big childhood dream, so as soon as it was time to start filling in those university applications, I picked out a Writing Contemporary Fiction degree at Southampton Solent and completely and utterly expected to leave at the end of my final year with a published and successful novel.
Sadly, that didn't quite work out how I'd hoped.
I didn’t leave with a published novel, or anything close for that matter. I simply left with the realisation that becoming a literary success or spending my future career in a publishing house, discovering new and ground-breaking manuscripts was about as realistic as finding an honest politician.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my time at university was fantastic and there’s no way I would go back and change anything if I could (apart from a few ill-advised nights out and resulting hangovers). The problem was, I left Southampton unable to fill up a notebook anymore – when I was younger I’d get through two or three a week; packed with stories and poems. But during my studies, I was taught how to critique my own work and now I couldn't help but find mistakes in everything I put down on paper; in my short stories, my first drafts, even in my own diary entries - glaring up at me, as obstructive as holes in the pages. I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d lost it and there was no hope of getting it back.
Deflated, I resigned myself to call centre roles and waitressing jobs, figuring I could just muddle along, work my way up in a company I would dread to walk into every day. Sit down at a desk and feel that punch of anxiety every time the phone rang, every time another weekend ended, every time I woke up in the morning and went to bed at night. But hey, that’s life, right? No one ever promised being a grown up would be enjoyable.
Sometimes I would have these bursts of hope and determination, every time a temporary job contract ended, or the need for waitresses were low. I’d spend hours on the computer researching how to start my own business, became obsessed with the idea when I couldn’t find anymore work and ended up on the dole for a month or two. But sadly, my assumption that the careers officer I was assigned to would be of any help was a mistake; she simply blinked sympathetically at me when I tried to explain my idea for a travelling creative workshop for kids. I think she almost found it funny.
It wasn't long before I had to accept the sad fact that dreams can’t pay the bills, so when I was offered a job selling home insurance, I took it and I felt grateful. I went back to sitting at a desk, dreading the phone ringing, dreading Sunday nights and Monday mornings. But I was on relatively good pay for what I was doing and the people were nice and that’s probably the best consolation I could have hoped for.
Around four months after I started, I noticed that the company had a blog. It was a small blog that had about five articles, few and far between and I thought, ‘I could do that’. Being trained in all things home insurance had to have some perks, so armed with a notebook full of blog post ideas, I asked to have a meeting with the boss. Looking back on that meeting, I think he was relatively impressed, he said I could write an article or two but I wasn’t granted any time off the phones to do it and I never even saw those posts go live.
I was frustrated and I knew that unless I did something - something big - I was going to carry on being frustrated and sad and unfulfilled for the rest of my life.
So, after a few weeks of building up the courage, I quit my job. I worked my notice and applied for an online Copywriting course with the UK Writer’s College. I’d read somewhere that Copywriters were one of the most sought after types of writers there were, so I decided I would try my best to become one of them.
I ended up finding a job in a local dry cleaner’s, working three days a week to tide me over and studying during the rest, but it was an unbelievably hard time. My big leap of faith caused hundreds of arguments at home, to the point I started to question myself and what the hell I'd done over and over. But I knew I couldn’t give up now; something just had to come of it, because if it didn't, I'd have to go back to the land of call centres and that would mean I'd not only given up all hope of a writing career, but I'd have given up on myself .
Soon, I started replying to Copywriter ads online, I wrote to hundreds of faceless employers, telling them that I knew I had no experience, but if I could just get some advice and learn how to stick my foot firmly in the door, that would mean more to me than anything. But no one got back to me and in truth I didn’t really expect them to.
Then one day I got an email. An email that asked if I would like to come in for a chat about a possible job. A possible job in London. I think I was more scared in that moment than I’d ever been before, because it seemed the ball had started to roll and now I would have to roll with it, wherever it went.
A week later I found myself shaking and queasy inside a Soho office, being asked if working as a Copywriter for a well-known brand was something I would be interested in. Obviously, my answer was yes and a couple of days later, I was asked to come in for a trial week.
I think those five days were some of the most surreal I’ve ever experienced and it took no more than an hour to realise that I really could be a Copywriter, that it really was possible to look forward to coming into work every day and never have to feel anxious about a phone ringing again.
It was during a particularly boring shift at the dry cleaner’s one day that I got the call offering me the job. I remember tearfully accepting it, then calling my Mum, my Dad, my Nan, my Aunt – anyone I could get hold of. I’d done it, I’d proved everyone wrong (including myself) and I would finally be able to say I was a writer, a real writer that wrote for a living and I have never felt so elated and overwhelmed.
One year and seven months later and I am still a writer. I’m living my own little dream in London, surrounded by great colleagues and friends and I’ve never been surer that what I did and what I’m doing here is right.
Some people have said I was lucky, that I got an easy ride and landed on my feet, but really I made my own luck. If I hadn’t taken the biggest risk of my life so far, I wouldn’t be where I am today and sharing my story with you lot. I would still be living at home, working in a call centre, trying to convince myself that I’m happy.
I’ve asked my boss a couple of times why she took a chance on someone with zero experience, who wasn’t even asking for an interview, just simply advice. And each time she’s responded with “Because out of everyone that applied for the job, you were the most passionate.”
I hope this post has stirred something in you, made you think of a dream you gave up on, or were thinking of giving up on. And I hope you all know and remember that the only thing stopping you from being where you want to be and doing what you want to do in life, is you.