It’s a common and seemingly innocent question, whatever its form. What’s your dream job? What would you rather be doing? It’s a conversation often bouncing around a dinner party or over drinks. How often do people reply with “This, here. What I’m doing now.” Very few I would imagine? Most likely, people rattle off glamorous ideals about travel, loads of money, freedom and flexibility, fame and infamy.
For me, the answer has always been: I would write.
However, it has taken me far too long to take ownership over this dream. I distinctly remember the first time I let myself tell someone outside of my family that I wanted to be a writer. I remember it clearly because it was the same night my brother called me to tell me he had cancer.
I was sitting in the alfresco of a Sydney restaurant, overlooking the river. I was dining with some of my colleagues, the CEO, a Board member and his wife. It was yet another work trip, where the wine was inevitably flowing and the food was delicious. When my phone started buzzing I excused myself to answer it. I stepped away from the table and walked towards the riverbank. My brother told me his results had come back; he had cancer.
He was stoic. I was trembling, the tears brimmed my eyes. When he rang off I wiped at my eyes, facing the water, not ready to walk back to the table. A part of me was annoyed that he’d told me now, while I was away for work. How could I possibly compose myself in front of all these important people, whom I was trying to impress with my professionalism, my wit and my charm?
Thankfully no-one asked me about the call when I returned to my seat. They graciously ignored my glazed eyes and sombre mood. I drank my wine and picked at my food. When the plates were taken away the conversation kicked on. Someone asked “What would you do if you weren’t doing this job?”
I don’t recall what the others said. I only remember when they all turned to me, anticipating my response. My heart leapt into my throat and my palms became slick with sweat. Maybe it was the wine? Maybe it was the news I’d just received? Whatever it was, I suddenly felt brave, though I didn’t sound it when I said, “I would be a writer. Of like, novels.” I paused, looking down into my lap, waiting for them to laugh at me.
But then, they didn’t.
For the most part the conversation went on. No one batted an eyelid really. Certainly no one laughed or made fun of me. I think they may even have smiled and nodded. Perhaps this wasn’t such a crazy idea after all? Perhaps I really could write a book?
That first step was like leaping from a cliff for me. It felt dangerous, risky but also carefree and wild. Why is it that we are so afraid to own our hearts? To let the world know that we have a dream, and it may be fraught with hardship and paved with failure, but hey, what goal isn’t worth a bit of pain and a lot of hard work?
Many years later, I’ve come to realise that saying those words out loud was only the opening of what is proving to be a very deep, very dark and seemingly endless rabbit hole. But with each step I get a little more brave and a little bit closer to realising my dream.
Now, rather than shying away from it, I’m grabbing my dream by its metaphorical horns and facing it head on. In April I’ll be attending a five day intensive masterclass with Fiona McIntosh, which promises to be both challenging and inspiring. I’ve already sent my first 10 novel pages and synopsis to Fiona for review in the lead up to our one-on-one session, where I’ll receive her critique. I’ve also learnt that on Day 4, we’ll all be required to pitch our novels to a representative from Simon and Schuster.
Yep, I’m terrified. But when the horns are pointed your way, you just have to hold on tight.
NB: The cancer was successfully removed and my brother is cancer free 😀