Everyone starts out writing while doing something else with at least some of their time – we have to eat even before we’re published. I have never been especially strong on what I wanted to do for a living, but I was always certain I wanted it to meet certain conditions.
The first of these is that I would work from home. I get the odd opportunity to do that now, but it’s frustratingly slow trying to access systems via VPN which weren’t exactly speedy in the office. I dream of a day when I can have an office space at home, and work to my heart’s content without interruptions from people demanding my time – or information I’ve already given them twice. It’s not about workwear, I can deal with that, it’s about freedom.
Which leads me to the second thing. I want to work for myself. My sister already does that, moving between freelancing her horsecare skills and subcontracting as an HGV driver. It makes her more money than my 8-30-to-5-30 office hell, with a lot more flexibility. I’m still unsure of whether I would want to run a company or just work for myself, but I have a feeling I’ll be trying both before I choose a side of that fence.
The third thing is that I want to feel excited about my work. I’ve never wanted to be so into my job I have no room for hobbies, but I would love to be in the kind of thing that kept me interested rather than searching for ways around my workload. Admittedly, if I’d pursued accountancy qualification I might have that by now, but the fact of the matter is that I fell into that as a way to earn better money in a better job than I had after going back to work following maternity.
You look at the snippets about ‘mumpreneurs’, and I have to say I’m envious. I’m not crafty or professionally qualified, so I’ve no idea what I would have done, but the prospect of working around childcare is a very inviting one. When I started work after having my son, I made about £10 a month after paying for nursery – and he was only there three days a week. I was so frustrated with looking after a baby all day with no adult conversation, that I leapt into work without thinking it through. My next job, which was considerably nicer, made me much happier – but then I moved. I moved from the Isle of Man to Derby, following my other half (I really wish there was a better way to refer to him, but ‘boyfriend’ sounds like we’ve just got together and ‘partner’ sounds like a business agreement). The resulting job change was again the first job I could get after three months of solid childcare. While it was interesting at points, I found it highly frustrating most of the time. When that job changed when the company split into two, I found my role much the same. And I’m still waiting for something to really get my teeth into.
Which brings me back to writing. I want to write when I’m best at it. I know I’m a grown-up, at least in part, but the prospect of writing rather than relaxing after a day of battling idiots and mind-numbing meetings is just beyond me. I get my very best work done during working hours, as you’d expect, and writing is therefore off the menu except at weekends. The issue with this is that the weekend is the only real time I get to spend with my son. I’m lucky in that my mother heroically takes him for the summer holidays – I get a weekly phone call and lots of photos – but the impetus to use my weekends to write isn’t there, especially when we want to do child-free things.
So what can I do? Short of making a drastic change like going part-time (if only I’d be allowed to do it) or changing jobs altogether, I’m stuck for now. I will continue to write in the bursts of time between work and home life, using my lunch breaks and the odd day off. Fingers crossed I can make enough progress in that time to justify the effort. My big goal is to earn a living from writing, enough to give up the stress of an office and do what I’m good at. For that, I will need to practise my writing (the million-word rule proving more than a little intimidating for someone who favours brevity over description) and suffer the indignities of being a regular human being trying to get by.