Monday, 22 August 2016

How Blogging Helped Me To Achieve My Dream

I remember so clearly the night that I started this blog of mine.

I was heavily pregnant with my first baby, 7 months along, sitting on my bed - Jon next to me, laptop open in front of me.

We talked about how lonely I was feeling during the pregnancy, not knowing anybody else who was expecting - I talked about how I wanted to be able to connect with other mums, to document what I was experiencing, and to find a way to write about the ups and downs of the physical and emotional symptoms I was having.

That night, I chose my blog name, I set up my little online space and I started writing.

I wrote anything and everything that came to mind over those first few months.

I hadn't read any blogs previously, it was all completely new to me - I knew nothing at all about what I was doing, but I kept on writing.

Eventually, as with anything, I started to learn on the go - I got talking to other bloggers, I joined Facebook groups, I followed bloggers on Twitter, and I eventually integrated myself into the blogging community - one that I hadn't even realised existed when I pressed "Publish" on that first post.

Over the years, I learnt more and more - and, as I've recently discussed, the brand work offers started to come in - before I knew it, I was earning the same amount from my blog that I had been getting paid in my previous job working for New Look's online team.

When the time came to decide whether or not to return to work, I was able to decide against it and declare myself a Work From Home Mum - my blog providing the income that I needed.

On that day, as I cuddled my baby son and relished in the fact that I wasn't forced to go back out to work against my wishes, I thanked my lucky stars for that night that I had started my blog...because never had I thought that it would give me that opportunity.

Declaring that my blog was now my job meant a lot to me - because since I was 5 years old, I have dreamed of being a writer.

Or rather...being a paid writer. Because I believe that a writer is something that you either are or you're not - it's the kind of thing that's just "in" you and if you have the writing bug, then you will always be a writer - whether you're paid for it or not.

I wrote my first full story when I was 5 years old - I remember it so clearly - it was the tale of a young woman who's plane had crashed in the jungle, and she found herself having to make a life there amongst the animals who soon became her friends (Katy Perry totally stole my idea for her Roar video!!!)

 I remember proudly trying to write out the words, in my muddled up spelling and scrawly 5 year old handwriting, and illustrating the pictures to go along with it - drawing a big red Macaw and all of the jungle trees...

I remember showing that book, which I stapled together to look realistic, to my teacher - and I remember receiving a lot of praise for it. I guess 5 year olds who can barely write don't often put together whole stories, and my teacher thought it was worthy of sending me to visit the headteacher for, because she said it was so good that it deserved a prize - they even made me stand up in school assembly and read it to everybody.

I think I did get a little prize, but I don't remember what it was....because the prize didn't matter. 

What mattered was the feeling I got....a feeling of pride in my work, and a feeling of real achievement. I had written that story all by myself - it came from that place inside my head where alternate realities live, where anything is always possible and the only limit is my imagination - it came into being because I had used my words to get it from my mind down onto paper...where other people could read about it, and enjoy that same escape into the world of imagination that I loved so much.

That felt like something very important.

And from then on, I felt like writing was my talent - it didn't matter that I was rubbish at sports, that I always came last in every race in the playground, that I couldn't paint very well, wasn't great at maths and didn't have a good singing voice - because my talent was story telling. 

And all I wanted was to share it.

I asked for an electric typewriter that Christmas (Oh the days before home computers!) and when I received it, I was delighted - I spent hours upon hours typing away in my bedroom, churning out story after story after story.

The ideas were seemingly endless, and I'd find inspiration everywhere - from things my friends would say, to stories I'd hear on the news - I had more ideas than I could keep up with.

I used to make little books for my younger sister to read on long car journeys, she was my "audience" and I used to wait anxiously for her feedback on every story I gave to her - she developed a love of dogs and so I created a series called "Oh Kip!" all about a troublesome little West Highland Terrier and the scrapes he got into - my sister would always ask for a new "Oh Kip!" story whenever we headed out in the car, and I loved knowing that she was enjoying what I'd written.

Whenever anybody asked me what I wanted to do as a job when I grew up, I always answered the same way - "I want to be a writer".

All throughout my teenage years, my passion for writing never waned - I developed a love of writing spooky stories and crime mysteries, and even dabbled in a bit of poetry (though fiction was always my favourite.)

But of happened. 

When you leave school and tell your careers advisor that you want to be a writer, they don't really seem to encourage you to pursue that goal - or at least they didn't at my tiny little catholic school in a rough part of the city where people were generally considered lucky to have any job at all - instead she asked about what other interests I had, and when I mentioned that I liked children she soon had me talked into doing a childcare course.

And so I did...and from then on, I was firmly on the childcare path - working in nurseries, as a nanny, as a teaching assistant and so on - but I never stopped writing in whatever free time I had.

And I never stopped hoping that one day, somehow, I'd be able to find a path to my dream.

And so, when paid work offers started to roll in as a result of my blog, I was thrilled...and even though sponsored posts were usually for promoting companies or products, and didn't give me much in the way of creative license...I was still being paid to write, and that felt like it was as close to my dream as I might ever get.

Little did I know that this blog I had started would end up doing so much more for me.

After 3 years of amazing experiences, holidays, expensive gifted products, and so on - I was of course delighted and felt so lucky to be given so many wonderful opportunities - but I have never been in it for those things.

Yes the holidays are lovely, yes the experiences are great, and yes the paid work and the fact that it's allowed me to work from home has been wonderful - but, much like that story I wrote back in primary school, these things were just the prize...and the prize was never the reason that I wrote.

I kept on blogging because I loved having an outlet for my writing, I loved the fact that it enabled me to keep in practise and the fact that it exposed me to so many other wonderfully talented writers in the same position as me - and I hoped against hope that maybe, just maybe, one day blogging might open another door for me - that it might allow me to get that little bit closer to my dream.

And then, just like that, one day a few weeks ago - I received an email, asking me to write a piece for a magazine.

A real, in the flesh, publication - and one of the country's most popular ones too, with thousands of actual readers.

I was beyond delighted - nervous, and doubting myself of course - but excited. 

And - just like buses - along came another opportunity! To write a second piece for the magazine's website.

That piece was published this week, and the magazine piece is going into print very soon, and I feel as though - at last - I've achieved something massive.

Maybe not to everybody - maybe other people would much rather have the holidays and the gifted products - but to me, to that 5 year old girl and her jungle story, this has always been the dream.

To write creatively for a living - to have a voice - to get my words out of my head and into print, for all the world to see.

No I don't have a book deal, and maybe I never will - but I turn 35 this year, and I'll be honest - I was starting to think that I'd left it all too late. That it was never going to happen and that writing sponsored posts on my blog was as close to being a paid writer as I'd ever come.

So excuse me while I bask a little in these achievements, because for once I'm going to celebrate them....

I'm not going to tell myself it's nothing important, or that it's silly to be excited, or that it's no big deal - because to me, it is. And 5 year old Hayley would have been bloody excited too!!!

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