Sunday, 13 November 2011

Taking the right road by Ann Evans

On Remembrance Sunday we're reminded of the incredible work that people in our armed services do. We particularly remember those who have given their lives in the line of duty, protecting our freedom, fighting for Queen and country and for what is right and just. Like most, I'm grateful and thankful for the dedication of these folk, it's certainly not a job I could do.

The paths that we take in life are all so very different, you only have to think of doctors, nurses, firemen, police officers and the many other hazardous and dangerous jobs that individuals do to keep this old world turning to make you realise how vital some roles are. And it makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have chosen this path - to write.

It’s funny when you think how we’re all cut out to do different things. I was trying to imagine what job I would be doing now if I hadn’t been bitten by the writing bug some 30 years ago. A secretary still, I guess, although now I’d be called a pa – and I’d probably be writing press releases for some company – so I would still have ended up writing. 

But I truly count myself fortunate in having taken this path, although it wasn’t a deliberate or conscious undertaking, it’s more like the path unfurled in front of me and it was impossible not to plod along it even though I had no idea where it was leading me. It’s only when I look back and see the milestones that I know I didn’t take a wrong turning a long time back.

The milestones aren’t huge, and I don’t mean winning awards because there haven’t been many, but little things which prove that what you do is worthwhile, such as this incident which literally took my breath away: I was chatting to a young editor of a regional newspaper and she reminded me that she went to the same primary school as my children. Of course I remembered her then, as a little girl she was always keen on writing stories, and I’d helped her with them a few times and thought nothing of it. Then came the mind-blowing bit... she told me then that I’d been her inspiration to write and to go into journalism. And now she was an editor. You could have knocked me down with a feather!

For me, some of the best milestones have been on school visits, when perhaps one child in particular tells you that because of the book you've written they've gone on to read more whereas before they never liked reading. This struck home for me at a senior school on World Book Day this year. A 16 year old pupil came up to me at the end of the session and told me that she used to hate reading, then, a few years ago a friend lent her a copy of The Beast, which she so enjoyed, she became hooked on books ever since. It's little things like these that show you you're on the right track. Little milestones that we notch up without realising it  - until you look back.

You may never know how your words have inspired or influenced a young mind.

I wonder how other writers (and non writers) feel about the path they've taken. If you weren’t a writer what do you think you’d be doing now? And what milestones do you look back on that make you realise you’ve taken the right road?


Linda Gillard said...

Lovely blog, Ann.

Writing is my 4th career path after acting, journalism and teaching (and I had stay-at-home-motherhood as a hobby.) The fork in the road for me was a mental breakdown which led me to give up teaching. As I convalesced, I took up what I probably should have been doing all along, ie writing fiction.

Breakdown is often breakthrough.

Dan Holloway said...

Wow, what a wonderful thing to have someone say to you!

I try not to think about the path I've taken - too many breakdowns at the wrong times landing me with debts and an unfinished doctorate putting an end to what I'd always wanted to do in academia and leaving me with a low grade desk job that's all my health will let me do. I try to look forward instead, to the things writing has opened up to me. I can't imagine it ever being a full-time profession - writing things that people will want to read in their thousands leaves me utterly drained (I tried for months, probably years now, to write a sequel to my thriller but it won't come and in truth that's because I don't really want it to). On the other hand, whilst it's not sexy and doesn't pull in the punters en masse, writing poetry and short fiction and performing it live is the most exhilarating experience I can imagine, and the fact I get to do it once or twice a week, and can take my shows to festivals is a privilege I am eternally thankful for, even if I can't quite work out what path led there - I think it was simply - as so often - putting my hand up when someone asked for a volunteer and things snowballing from there.

Ann Evans said...

Thank you Linda and Dan for your comments. Linda I love your positive philosophy that breakdown can mean breakthrough. I do think it's fascinating looking at the events in life that have brought us to where we are today. And Dan even though writing with its multitude of activities can sometimes be frustrating and leave us totally dejected at times, isn't it great that there are other times when our work does make us feel absolutely exhilarated.

Karen King said...

Hi Ann,I can so identify with your post, I didn't set out to be a writer either, in fact I was going to be a teacher. But I love the way my life has gone and as I run a lot of writing workshops in schools I sometimes get to be a sort of teacher too!