Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Monday, 9 November 2009

So What Is It That You Actually Do?

I was asked this question the other day by a stranger I met at a community meeting. I was a bit flummoxed for a few seconds as what to tell this person. We are so defined by our 'work' roles in society and as I no longer work outside the home (well not for financial gain, anyway,) I find it quite difficult to know what to say to people when they ask me it. What exactly do I do?

I pondered on this when I returned home from the meeting. I'm actually a Jill of all trades really. I started off my working life as a waitress in a local restaurant. Then I did a six week stint as an assistant play leader at a summer holiday play scheme. Then I was a children's nanny looking after two boys aged 4 and 7. Then, when their parents' marriage broke up and I found myself out of a job, I moved into being a care assistant at a residential home for the elderly some 12 miles away from my home. I used to arrive there looking like the Mitchelin Man as I rode a scooter at the time. Good fun in the summer but painfully cold and miserable in the bad weather.

Then I did my nurse training away in Plymouth and when I qualified I worked in Exeter. I moved back to Shropshire in 1996 and remained a nurse at the local hospital for four years then moved into practice nursing at a local GP practice. I stayed there for four years and then had my daughter and took 13 months out. Then I went to work at a different GP practice and stayed there for three years. Then I gave up! I'd had enough of nursing - was fed up with all the politics and stress and just threw the towel in. End of. Ta Tar. Bye Bye!

A year before that I had decided that I wanted to give writing a proper go. It was an, "it's a now or never," moment, and I thought if my writing doesn't work out, at least I'll know and I can move on to something else. So I enrolled on an Open University Creative Writing Course for 9 months (well I figured as I couldn't have any more kids I'd have a 'writing qualification baby' instead, without the stretch marks, nausea and varicose veins!) A month before I finished this, I had enjoyed the challenge of the course so much that I didn't want to stop writing and so I googled 'writing groups' and came up with Wrekin Writers and that was that. That's when the madness really started! And I've never been the same since - something my husband will attest to!

The decision to give up my nursing career was not an easy one. I had been a nurse for 13 years and had got to Sister status - quite high up on the nursing career ladder. But I knew the stress wasn't doing me or my family any good so it had to stop. And that's where the writing came in. I had a 'second' career up my sleeve to have a bash at.

It's not been an easy journey so far and as we hurtle to the end of 2009 (Christmas is apparently 6 weeks on Friday away) I have come far but not quite hitting the mark. I will be celebrating my blog's first birthday in Jan 2010 and I can't believe how fast the time has gone, or how supportive and lovely everyone in Blog land is. But I have had several things published - I haven't made much money from my writing yet, and going from a part-time nurses wage to no wage has been difficult - but I'm still here and I'm still trying hard.

It was such a change for me to go from writing very little to writing a lot - every day. I've had to be disciplined and strong, organised. I've also had to be flexible and learn how to roll with the punches. Writing for publication is a hard struggle and you have to be on it all the time. You have to keep doing it even though you know you might not get published. I've had so many rejections now that I really could paper my loo walls with them! But that's part of the job. And I know which job I'd rather be doing and it's not nursing.

So much had changed for me over the last year: I work from home now; I'm a school Governor; I go in to my daughter's school as a volunteer reading supporter; I'm a community campaigner and I get to spend so much more quality time with my daughter and husband now and that can only be a good thing.

I'm always seeking to do something different and they always say write what you know. Well I've had a varied career so far so there's plenty of writing material to draw from there. But I'm also striving to gain new experiences to find new things to write about. The two articles I had accepted in Shropshire Life Magazine were on archery and Wildlife rescue - two subjects I knew very little about and I wrote articles on them and got them published! I never ever thought I'd be doing that! Or having thousands of Australians and New Zealanders reading one of my short stories about Chickens!! But there you go!

You have to move forward with your writing; push yourself out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself by tackling something new and different from what you normally do. I started out writing readers letters and then moved on to articles and features (which have been by greatest success), and short stories. Now I feel confident enough to have a crack at novel writing and I'm flying along with that. Will I ever write a novel good enough to be published? Who knows?! It's the trying that counts.

Never be afraid to try something new - it could send your writing career in a whole new direction and you might just surprise yourself - I know I've amazed myself sometimes. What, me? Do that! Don't be silly! And I have done it and it's worked. So can you - well I know you can as several of my fellow bloggers have done far better with their writing I have - but then they've also been doing it a lot longer than me and have put the hard work and hours in to get where they are today.

Keep writing, keep pushing and above all else, enjoy yourself.

Right I have a date with NaNo

Julie xx


Lynne Hackles said...

Gosh! What a long blog. Interesting though. If you'd added all those words to your NaNo novel your counter would be a bit further along the line. 29% is amazingly good. Well done you. Keep at it.

Carole Anne Carr said...

A lovely post as ever, Julie, enjoyed reading it.

Suppose you were lucky, if you were as old as me, heaven forward, you have your whole life in front of you, and it was not that long ago then the person would have said, 'And what does your husband do?'.....you were defined by your husband and nothing else!! xx

Martin H. said...

Stick with it Julie. One of the best pieces of advice came to me from my editor in the 80s. He told me not to define in terms of what I used to do. If anyone asks what you do, simply tell them that you are a writer, for that is what you are.

Julie P said...

Thanks, Lynne! I know, my post is long isn't it!! I just let it flow! Get if your chest is what I say.

Even I can't believe I'm at 29% on Nano! There should be some more on there later tonight too.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Carole. I can't imagine being defined by what my husband does! I don't like the term housewife, or home maker - even if that is part of my role! Some people assume that you are somehow of a lower intelligence if you say you are a housewife! That's so not true as we all know.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Martin. A very timely reminder that we should always be looking forward, ever pointing ahead on the journey and not looking back over our shoulder too much. I am a writer and proud of it! I've just got to get used to saying it, and believing it!

Julie xx

Olivia Ryan said...

So interesting to read about your various careers, Julie - and as you know, I shared your experience of NHS life, and don't miss the stress and politics either! At first, though, I did miss my 'label' - I'd been a medical secretary for most of my life and was proud of it. I felt a bit 'adrift' for a while when I gave up. But now I am even more proud to say I'm a writer. It doesn't matter whether we're successful, on the way up, or 'resting between publications'- we're still writers. And you're doing great!

Julie P said...

Hi, Olivia, Yes you know only too well about what I mean re the NHS! I think we are both better off without it! I applaud people who dedicate their whole working lives to the NHS but it just wasn't for me. I think I did my time!

You're right. I felt very much as though a I had been cut adrift too - my identity and title gone. But I'm thinking about having a badge made with 'I am a writer' on it!

Julie xx

klahanie said...

Hi Julie,
Well you most certainly have had a varied life.
I admire you morals in so far as you had enough of the unfortunate 'politics' that you were subjected to in your nursing career. I can relate to unwarranted stress and making a life change.
It takes courage to take ourselves out of the 'comfort zone'. Indeed,it can actually be an uncomfortable comfort zone.
So I applaud you for having the courage to pursue your writing dreams. Total admiration for that.
Wishing you all the very best in your writing and that date with 'NaNo'.
Kind wishes, Gary x

Julie P said...

Thanks, Gary,

It does take courage to recognise when something isn't working and then taking action to make it right.

I had to cry off on the date with NaNo last night but I'm back on it today!

Take care

Julie xx