For a good percentage of my working life I managed people. As part of that job I was responsible, when any of my staff left, for arranging collections, buying and wrapping gifts and organising presentations and leaving parties. Very often the person involved wouldn’t be leaving for a new job, or to have a baby, they would be saying goodbye to work for good. As I wished them good luck and a happy retirement it often crossed my mind ‘What will happen when it’s my turn to leave work behind? What will I do? How will I feel about saying goodbye to everyone and losing that day-to-day connection with other people?’ During those moments I realised I almost dreaded that day arriving. I loved work and it seemed impossible to even contemplate not being there.
From junior school to my college days I had always written, even successfully completing a full length novel (which I believe still lives somewhere in the attic). Eventually my desire to become an author fell by the wayside as full time work and then marriage took over. However the need to create stories and characters living in a parallel universe never quite went away. I’m still not sure where the inspiration came for the Little Court Series but suddenly in the early 2000s there I was, writing again. Managing to juggle home life and a full time job, by 2010 I had written and published a trilogy – a saga, for want of a better word, about the lives of four young women growing up during the 1960s/1970s.
I had always thought I would miss work when I eventually gave up. That there would be something of a void in my life. Kick starting my writing again came at the perfect time for me. It made me refocus on what I really wanted to do. For years I had been on someone else’s payroll and now I very much wanted to take control of my life; be my own boss. Of course it wasn’t something I achieved overnight. Two and a half years before I eventually left the workplace I opted to reduce my hours, moving to a two and a half day a week job share. Then in the summer of 2013 I knew the time had come for me to leave and become a full time writer. On reflection the choices I made – reducing hours before setting myself a leaving date – were absolutely right for me. After years of full time work to simply decide on a date and then leave would have been a huge culture shock, like being thrown into an ice-cold bath of water. It needed to be a gradual process to guide me gently towards this new direction I had decided embark on.
And now? Well my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I still keep in touch with people I used to work with, even meet up with some of them occasionally for a drink or a meal. And as for missing the workplace, well actually I still have one. The virtual friends on Facebook and Twitter (some of whom I’ve actually met) have more than compensated for those I’ve left behind. I can now look back and say confidently it was the right decision, I love my life as a writer – in fact I couldn’t be happier.