This week’s Writing on Wednesday post is by Caroline Mitchell. Caroline is the author of the DS Jennifer Knight series, the third of which, THE SILENT TWIN, is out on 15 April, and is currently working on a new series. I meet Caroline last year at London Book Fair, and we have become great friends. Not only is she a warm and considerate person, she is very ambitious. The thing that stood out for me was that she had a plan. She wanted to write full-time, so she worked hard. This is her inspirational story of how she achieved her dream.
How I left my job to become a full-time author.
One night, when I was on a late shift in my job as a police detective, I sat around with my colleagues in a rare moment of down time discussing our futures. They wistfully counted the days to retirement, when they would be able to finally collect their pensions and live the life of their dreams. With only five years racked up in the job, my pension collecting days seemed very far away. I made a decision. I did not want to wait until I was sixty-five to live my dream life. I announced that I would be leaving the police before my tenth anniversary. I had no clue how I was going to be able to afford that, with four children at home to support and a self-employed husband, whose income was sporadic to say the least. They offered me a kindly smile that is afforded to the delusional, and we went back to work. That was four years ago. This week, I attended police HQ to give them my warrant card for destruction, as I had given in my notice the month before … I had served nine years in the police.
It’s not that working in the police was a terrible job, it just wasn’t for me. So when I embarked on my plan to find something else to do, I absorbed myself in self-help materials, such as the movie The Secret and the book Be a Free Range Human, until one message shone through. Do what makes you feel alive. I’m a daydreamer. My school report card regularly reported ‘Caroline could do better if she stopped looking out the window,’ and ‘Caroline’s middle name is daydream.’ Getting paid to write stories featuring characters that lived in my head seemed my perfect occupation. Yet even when I released my first self-published novel Paranormal Intruder in 2013, I did not dare to believe I would one day be writing full-time. So I started looking for other things to do. But none of them made me happy.
I made a decision to follow my dreams, even if that meant working my socks off without a break. Each morning I got up at half five for my train journey to work. Squeezing myself into any available seat, I wrote as much as I could. I carried a notebook, and scribbled random notes during the day. That night when everyone was in bed, I would be up until one or two o clock, writing until I fell asleep. Then I got up a few hours later and started all over again. Now I’m not advocating you work until you make yourself ill. After two years without a break, I was signed off sick from work with stress. That was when a decision had to be made. I choose what made me happy. I prepared my resignation email, and as my finger hovered over the ‘send’ button all the old fears came into play. I was giving up a respected job, a steady income. What if my royalties dipped? What would happen if I couldn’t meet the mortgage payments? Then I thought of my readers, and the emails and messages I had received on a daily basis, telling me how much they loved my work. I thought of my publisher and editor, who had enough faith to sign me for another three-book deal. I thought of my agent, who was excited about my writing. Then I thought how I would feel if I gave all that up for my steady job in the police. I pressed send.
I read a fantastic quote on the internet the other day. It said ‘The people who say it can’t be done should not interrupt the people doing it.’ If I were to listen to people when they said I was delusional then I would not be writing this piece now. If you’ve read this far into my article, then I imagine you’re looking for inspiration yourself. I hope you’ve found it. Life is short. Do what makes you feel alive. And don’t stop until you find it.
You can find out more about Caroline and her books on her website.