Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook or other forums will already know that I handed in my resignation at work at the end of last year. I am no longer a library assistant. Instead I am a freelance writer and illustrator, with some relief teaching thrown in to help the coffers. The question remains, why?
The impetus came from two directions. Firstly there was what a friend euphemistically called ‘stuff’ at work. Because of the ‘stuff’ I found I no longer loved the job as much as I did a few years ago. Of course, every workplace has ‘stuff’, and on its own it probably wouldn’t have been enough to make me leave. I still loved the kids, and the teachers, and support staff were wonderful people to work with, but ‘stuff’ was the grain of sand that overbalanced the decision-making to the leaving side.
It really all started when I discovered the work of Sir Ken Robinson. If you haven’t heard of him, look him up (or, at the very least, watch the video below). He’s an education expert, gives inspiring talks, makes more sense than all of the other so-called experts I’ve met put together. He believes in creativity, he believes we all have it and he doesn’t think modern day education recognises that fact. As someone who at school, was told by the Principal that I was being lazy choosing Arts subjects for my final two years rather than the Sciences as my two older sisters had, and by a science teacher, that I would never amount to anything because I didn’t possess an ounce of logic (he was joking, but it stuck with me), the idea that creativity could actually be a good thing resonates with me. Creativity is not just the arts, though. That’s why I've always been a fan of Einstein. He recognised that creativity was important, whatever walk of life you were in.
Without creativity, nothing changes.
Back to Sir Ken. He wrote a book called ‘The Element’. I read it at the end of last year and loved it. It’s about people who struggled in life until they found (or someone showed them) the one thing that made them really come alive. They weren’t necessarily ‘arty’ types. They were from a whole range of professions, but their lives had changed with the decision to leave what they were doing and start being who they really wanted to be.
What Sir Ken wrote wasn’t really new to me. I’ve done courses: ‘discovering your true self’, ‘discovering your hidden talents’ sort of things, but with the ‘stuff’ at work, it really got me thinking. This wasn’t just about talent, it was about passion. In the library, I’d be looking at my watch regularly, hanging out for the next bell, the next cup of coffee. At home, working on a book or on illustrations or book covers, I can sit down at 9am thinking ‘I’ll just do this for an hour’, and be surprised by my husband coming in wanting to know what he should have for lunch. When I’m writing or designing, I zone out and time vanishes. I’m in my element. Interruptions are often annoying. I’ve always known it. Until now though, I’ve pushed that fact aside and done what I ‘needed’ to do – originally whatever I thought my parents expected and later, whatever I needed to do to support my family.
My family still need supporting. Eldest is still at University, Sausage has just discovered violin and apparently has potential and Dynamo is being a teenager with all the attendant costs that involves. We need money. The fact is, though, that I was not enjoying life much. I’d come home grouchy from work, have three days of relative happiness and then feel grouchy all weekend, knowing that I had to go back on Monday. It wasn’t good for me or my family. Yes, it was a regular income, but at what cost? In the end, I decided that a happy mother with less money was really more beneficial than a stressed-out mother bringing in a small but regular pay-cheque. Magic Owl Design is bringing in income, albeit smaller than I earned in the library. I’m getting more work as an illustrator and my books are trickling out of Amazon slowly but surely. I really think that I can make a living and be happy. I’m going to give it a jolly good try anyway!
(Quite long, but well worth a listen.)