(totes click-baited you)
It’s still an odd feeling, getting out of bed, getting everyone out of the house and then sitting down to write…for money. Odd because even though I’ve written nearly every day since I was 18 and even though I’ve been paid for my work and often, it has taken until I turned 37 to actually acknowledge that this is what I do, it’s how I pay my bills, shit it’s what I write on my immigration card when traveling.
I was lucky enough to have a bit of success early on in my career, at 18, but it was the sort that was stifled by my age. A lot of ‘well done’ but come back when you’re 30 because 20 years ago you couldn’t be young and a screenwriter. I didn’t have the life experience, education, etc etc. So I went to film school. Graduated with accolades and went back to these people to show them I’d gone and further pursued my desire to write, but at 22 I was still too young. With cap in hand I f**ked off overseas. Had a ball. Worked. Partied. Had my heart broken. Lived in the Eastend and finally returned to Australia, ready with my life experience to work back home.
But I wrote predominantly female characters, female stories and there was no market for that 10 years ago. Could I make them male? What did I think of gender swapping the characters? Why would a man watch my work? We can’t have unlikeable women on screen.
And yet for some reason, I kept on going, kept writing and took every other job in between -temp, Barista, PA, EA, caterer, waitress,dishpig, door bitch, program coordinator, just coordinator, data entry, file clerk. I had no fallback. I just had to take the work I could get. Spoiled for choice I was not. Of course, when there are articles about how well your career is going in the paper, or you’ve got a regular guest spot on the radio and even appear on TV from time-to-time, it’s hard to convey to people, that this emerging success is for the most part smoke and mirrors. And for the next 10 years, I juggled, like most creatives. I had representation, then didn’t. Had films get financed but never made, had meetings full of promise that went nowhere and in between it all I worked a 40 hour week doing ‘another job’ on top of the 30-40 hours a week I often committed to writing, because that’s what people knew me as by then ‘a writer.’
Than about 2 years ago there was a shift. I was finding the juggle harder and harder. I was finding writing commissions were becoming more frequent, better paid than before and while I was able to support myself (and I’m talking ramen noodle support) I couldn’t let go of the other job. The job that had always been there, paying my rent, my insurance, putting food on my table. It was a crazy place to be in. At a time where my career was finally forming (as I was in my 30s now so I guess I finally had enough life experience), I still couldn’t let go of the in between work. I thought for some reason that if I did everything would fall apart. I went into therapy. Got diagnosed with anxiety. Got on medication and slowly I started to acknowledge that I was a writer. A freelance writer. Ok, so I’d started to acknowledge what and who I was but I still had a part-time job, on top of my ever encroaching freelance commitments.
It became a mark of (foolish) pride to have people say ‘I don’t know how you do it’. That somehow I was amazing because I devoted as much time and energy to both jobs. What no one actually knew was that it was motived by fear. Fear that I couldn’t be a writer at 37 years old. Fear that something I’d been trying to do since I was 18, was well a nice idea, but not a reality. But then I got pregnant and that fucked everything up (in a good way). I realised I couldn’t juggle everything. I’d have to choose. And so I chose writing or maybe writing chose me because almost as soon as I got pregnant I could map out the next 12 months with writing jobs. Forest for the trees and all that I guess.
I’m currently writing a film, working on corporates and training films, a web series and a TV pilot. All paid. All jobs I’m ridiculously grateful for and grateful for the people that believed in my work enough to give them to me. Yet I still think I have imposter syndrome. After 20 odd years, that’s hard to let go of and I’m thinking I’ll probably carry it around with me for quite some time. I guess I wrote this because I didn’t want to post a lovely picture of my writing set-up for today without acknowledging how lucky I am to do what I love and how lucky I am that writing stuck with me all these years and never let me give up. Often people post lovely pictures that make the rest of the world think ‘why can’t my life be so perfect?’ – this is not that picture. Nor is it a picture that’s meant to inspire because f**k it’s hard out there if you have a dream. It’s just plain hard. But the flowers are nice. That’s why I posted this 🙂