tips on waiting to be a writer

When I was a girl, dreaming about becoming a writer one day, waiting never factored into it. There were misty scenes of me sitting at an old oak desk by a dormer window, in a light-filled loft room of an English country home. I gazed out upon the Jane Austen style garden, with obligatory fountain and pond, to the sea of flowers and trees. Caramel and black coloured horses grazed in the fields. My golden-brown hair was fashioned into a tumbling bun, my cotton linen clothes askew, my deft fingers pouring out the words. Cups of tea sat on the desk beside me, my tiger cat curled up on the window ledge. There were no competing responsibilities, no pressures, other than finishing my daily word-count. The reality is a little different.

Since changing my status on social media in the past couple of years, from being a blogger, to being an author, I have undergone a metamorphosis to rival a chrysalis. In reality, I have been a writer my entire life. I just didn’t see it that way. Until I made a conscious decision one day and on the spur-of-the-moment, I took an online course with the Australian Writer’s Centre in writing for children and teens; and changed those damn profiles. As I began this emergence, I approached it with verve, as I have done with every other unfurling. And I have had many.

When I left school, I wanted to be a writer. That was all I wanted. I was directed towards journalism. Year 12 was more than difficult for me. I was into year 4 of life with type 1 diabetes, had undiagnosed depression and questionable social activities. I didn’t really achieve my best. I still topped English, because I could do that with my eyes shut. I passed overall, quite well, but not quite enough to reach the very high entry level for journalism that year. I sat the cadetship exam at the Advertiser, but failed on my knowledge of politics and whoever was prime minister of some random island country I had never heard of before. Instead, I was welcomed into the arms of the social work school and spent decades in this profession.

Do I regret that? In many ways, no, but in many ways, yes. My work in child protection, my first job in the field as a very green 21-year-old, led to me experiencing significant mental illness. I experienced anxiety and distress, eventually resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and panic attacks. But it also led to me experiencing many different people, their lives and their problems, as well as their resilience. These things were not happening in a bubble. I also lived in a violent relationship at the time I was studying. There was a lot of trauma. But as a writer, all of these experiences fuel my stories. Does that mean I would do it all again? Hell, no. But I don’t regret my life. Not any of it.

After leaving that work and starting my own online diabetes counselling service and charity in 2001, I spent many years writing on a variety of platforms. Blogging became my outlet for words. But I didn’t see myself as a writer. I wrote and self-published a children’s picture book for type 1 diabetes. But I still didn’t see myself as a writer. I started another blog and self-published a book on sustainable living. But I still didn’t see myself as a writer. I started my PhD and my thesis, but I still didn’t see myself as a writer. It wasn’t until I started taking more formal steps into the world of writing, the world of writers, that things clicked into place for me – I was a writer. I am a writer. With everything that makes me – I have been and always will be, a writer.

During the past 30 years, not only have I been a social worker, but I have also been a waitress, a charity founder, worked on the Social Security Appeals Tribunal as the consumer rep, was a social media pioneer, studied diabetes education, became a diabetes educator, studied design, was an interior stylist, a professional blogger working with brands, had an online and a brick and mortar eco-interiors store, wrote books, taught people and organisations how to use social media, coached others in their businesses, sat on various tribunals and working parties, spoke at local and overseas conferences and undertook my PhD. I am now about to start with the SA Ambulance Services as a health consumer advocate, and intend to seek other opportunities to share my experiences of life with multiple chronic conditions in such a role, because sitting still isn’t my style, and there are so many things to do. During all of these things, most importantly, I got married to an incredibly loving and very funny man,  had 4 pregnancies and 3 beautiful children. They are my greatest acts of patience, my greatest creations and my greatest joys.

As I officially became not only a writer, but an author, I began learning, so much learning. I took short courses, attended writer events and connected with other writers. I pitched my manuscripts (wayyy too early), learned from my mistakes, took every piece of feedback I could get and worked hard at being better at my craft. I still work hard at this every day. I also began waiting. So much waiting. As writer, I think you need to study a course in waiting, along with all the other things. There is waiting for the ideas to come (or in my case, waiting for when I can start the next of the myriad of ideas that jiggle around in my head all of the time), waiting to have the time to write said ideas into a legible story, waiting for the editing to work, waiting for beta readers, waiting for the editing to work, waiting to get your pitch right, waiting for the opportunity to pitch, waiting for responses, waiting for rejections, waiting to deal with those rejections, waiting to decide if you want to toss the whole thing or go through editing again, waiting for responses from an agent, waiting for a publisher, waiting for the book to come out and waiting for sales. Then it all starts all over again.

For me, all of this waiting came off last year and I connected with the right agent. I still can’t believe this happened. Now, I am waiting again – for a publisher to like one of my stories, knowing that if when that happens, there will be more waiting. A whole lot more. In reality, I have been waiting almost my entire life for my first book to come out with a publisher – since I first began to read and write, well before I started school. Since I first fell in love with words and stories.

Many people over the years have told me I am impatient. Until recently, I have seen myself in this rather one-dimensional light. I am passionate. I become physically unable to wait, not just emotionally. I am impulsive and creative. I do things, when I feel the need to do them, sometimes without any thought process at all. Discovering I have ADHD, just last year, at the age of 52, has helped me to understand this feeling. It is more than an intellectual thing, I can feel the ramping up in my body, I can feel physically pushed to want to start something new, to bother people, contact them relentlessly, decide things are all over, beat myself up, throw my hands in the air and cry out, ‘they hate me, it’s all a pile of crap!’

But then, I look at my life.

I notice how I have persevered with so many things, living with type 1 diabetes and every other terrible thing that has broken in my body. I see how I waited for my beautiful sons, wondering whether they would be born dead or deformed, as I was told would be the case when I was just 12 years old. I remember all my years of study and my many qualifications, including my Social Work degree with honours (despite being in a violent relationship), my certificates in Narrative Therapy, Diabetes Education, and Design. My PhD, which took 7 years to complete. I realise how I have persisted and developed as a human being in so many ways while waiting, full of my own resilience, and an excellent sense of humour and humility.

I realise, I have always been a writer and I have always been waiting.  Life is about waiting. It’s the waiting that arrives at the places you dream of being. Waiting is the train ride across the countryside, rocking back and forth, sleeping stretched out beneath your blanket as you see the landscape from the window. The patience I have developed through this waiting, for the time I am now in, where all of my social media profiles reflect the trueness of the statement, ‘Author’ has been a long time coming. But the journey has been remarkable.  Now I am here, at this station, I await the next train. The waiting doesn’t stop. But no matter what, I will enjoy the ride, because I’m not missing out on the journey, not any of it, since that’s what life is all about. And that, is the richness of waiting.

4 Comments

  1. Lyn on February 24, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    This sounds like enough achievement (and difficulty and pain) for several lifetimes already! I am in awe of all you’ve accomplished. And so happy that writing and social media has connected us.

    • Helen Edwards on February 28, 2020 at 11:36 am

      thank you Lyn! I am very happy to have connected and enjoying your novel very much!

  2. Gemma on February 26, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks!

    • Helen Edwards on February 28, 2020 at 11:36 am

      thank you for reading!

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