This week I’ve been staying with my parents in what I like to call my home-home, the house I grew up in. It brings back many memories, as childhood homes often do, but the one memory I have been contemplating most is the one that spurred me on to start writing again.
Have you ever felt that odd fear, that gripping of your stomach muscles, when you see a person you knew in your youth? I have. For my first year as a stay-at-home mother I was wracked by it every time I came home. Part of me never wanted to leave my parents’ house, but stay cocooned in its familiar boxer-doggy warmth. It was far easier than risk bumping into anyone I knew and have to answer that God awful question: “So, what do you do?”
I dreaded that question. Not because I was ashamed of leaving work to raise my two children, far from it, but because I couldn’t answer without it becoming obvious that I hadn’t done the one thing I always said I would, the answer I gave on school questionnaires of what you wanted to do, or be, when you grew up. I wanted to be a published author and, whilst I was successful in several other areas and had done many things to be proud of, this was not one of them.
Many of those I schooled with are now very successful, often intimidatingly so, and very deserving of said success. It also doesn’t help that, as a teenager, I was so obnoxiously vocal about wanting to write. How could I tell these people that not only was I not the author I promised to be, but that I’d given up? I couldn’t. Something had to change and so I picked up my laptop and started typing. A year later I had a completed manuscript. Another year on I have a book I’m proud of, a fantastic writing mentor in Simon Hall, @thetvdetective, and the delightful prospect of going back to Winchester this summer.
This half term has seen a different experience. I’ve been shopping, to the cinema, to parks and lakes and have not felt that panic. I haven’t stared at the back of strangers’ heads thinking, oh God is that so-and-so? It’s not even because that dream of mine has come true, but more that I have faith that it will. And what will my answer be to that horrible question? Why, “I’m a writer,” of course.