I HAVE A DREAM
REFLECTIONS OF MY WRITING DREAM
by Catherine Boldeau
In May 2014, I had the strong urge to resign from my teaching post and become a full-time writer. I wanted to give up what John Keble in his famous hymn, New Every Morning, refers to as 'the trivial round, the common task', to spend balmy days writing thousands of meaningful words in a Roald Dahl's gipsy wagon at the bottom of a well-manicured garden or sitting under an umbrella at a waterside restaurant, sipping home-made lemonade, in Henley-on-Thames, warmed by brilliant sunshine and achieving the kind of writing success attributed to J K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series or E L. James for her infamous Fifty Shades of Grey.
But by July 2014, my enthusiasm and passion had dissolved into a vault of misgivings, a pending summer without a salary and sheer terror about leaving the stability of a secure position to be, 'footloose and fancy free'. I spent a week in North Wales which enabled me to have quality time to develop a writing project and I consoled myself that this would be my life for the foreseeable future - working as a English and History teacher as my day job with occasional periods away from everyday life to write in beautiful surroundings minus distractions.
As I stepped across the sterility of glass, stone and chrome in early September to prepare for registration day for new students, I felt my heart sink into my boots. The false hope that I had given myself during that week in Wales melted away, like ice in an oven. Each day of the autumn term, I mounted the four flights of stairs to my classroom with lead weights on my feet. Time literally stood still. Ten minutes in the classroom felt like ten long, torturous hours in a Siberian labour camp. And although I gave 100% to my students and maintained a good working relationship with my colleagues, my heart ached for 'the writing life'.
Seven weeks into the term, and a day after we returned from the half-term vacation, I became unwell with the flu, which I graciously gifted to my Hubby. However, due to his long-term health condition, he developed sepsis and erythoderma, two severe and potentially life-threatening ailments. In the midst of pondering a possible future as a widow and a single parent, juggling my daughter's extra-curricular activities, while caring for Hubby when he left the hospital, the urge to write returned with a vengeance. It nagged me at the shops, during the many visits to specialists, on the school run and while making dinner. It sat on the floor like a love-sick puppy and stared at me. It stroked my hair and massaged my legs. It became insistent.
I ignored it for a while because there was the possibility that Hubby would have to give up his work as a minister of religion and retire early. I ignored it because it was likely that I would be the sole breadwinner in our home. And I ignored it because, I thought that it was simply a coping mechanism created by my mind in order to deal with the current chaos. But after a few weeks of the endless thought of life as a full-time writer, I decided to pray about it. To give up all the 'crazy talk in my head' and allow the Father to replace them with calmer, more rational thoughts - such as looking for a better paying job, nearer to home.
But to my surprise, the Father concurred with 'the crazy talk in my head'. Actually, I'm sure now that the voice that spoke to me quietly and repeated the passage from Jeremiah 29:11, 'For I know the plans I have fore you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future', was the same voice.
So, in the middle of challenging circumstances, financial uncertainty with Christmas looming and being completely risk averse, I resigned from my job, with the blessing of my Hubby, who too believed that it was command from the Father. I shed the mantle of being a professional educator and became a full-time writer from 1st January 2015.
The past two months have been hard graft. Far from the idyllic writing retreats, I write in my living room on a small table or on my laptop on the sofa, with warm cups of tea and cheap biscuits. I'm still waiting for payment for some of the assignments and I've written several articles and being involved in social media projects as a volunteer. There are days, when I am 'isolated, neurotic, caffeine addled, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feeling of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy', in the words of Robert de Niro, but I believe that I am 'living my dream' and fulfilling my God-given purpose.
Catherine Anthony Boldeau is a freelance writer. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists and her first collection of short stories, Too Proud to Beg, Too Dumb to Steal, is published by The Story Room www.thestoryroom.org.uk