Thursday, March 5, 2015

Notes from the front line (Part 3)

Welcome back! And thank you for sticking with me.

Okey dokey. So you've heard my top five tips for keeping the faith when starting out your career. I thought I should probably end by giving you a sense of how I arrived at these insights and where they have led me.

In case you're new to this space, HI! My name is Kat (short for Katerina). I live in Melbourne, Australia. I am 40 years old and a mother of two. I graduated from my Bachelor of Arts with Honours in 1996, pursued a Masters in Publishing and Editing in 1999 and completed a Doctorate in Education in 2010. I have been employed in university administration all my working life, in roles as diverse as student advising; publications, marketing and recruitment; and policy and research.

Last year, I was on maternity leave from a part time policy role that had been created for me. This year, I decided against returning to the job, partly because the position itself disappeared in the course of a restructure and partly to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a writer.

I had written a novel (a fantasy/adventure for "middle grade" readers) a couple of years ago and managed to get it in front of a publisher. She liked it, recommended significant revisions and invited me to submit a pitch for a trilogy. Of course, there are no guarantees -- and I am very much hoping that writing will actually earn me money one day -- but right now I'm just happy to be able to say that this is my work.

So I accepted a redundancy package from the university by way of a glamorous and life-affirming process I have written about here.

When TheLadders invited me to think through my career trajectory, it was wonderful to reaffirm that everything I've done up to this point has been relevant and useful. But I wondered if people might question why it took me so long (i.e. half of my life!) to try being a writer for reals.

I sometimes wonder this myself. I think risk aversion was a big part of it: I'm a child of Baby Boomers after all. A big attraction of working at a university was, up until recently, its security and generous benefits. Certainly once I got a mortgage, these things became all-important.

But an even bigger part of it was self-confidence. I wasn't really sure that I had anything to say or that my writing was any good, so it was very easy to take this as a sign that the writing life was not for me.

I guess if there's anything I've learnt after 20 years of successes and stumblings is that those feelings never really go away. Doing it anyway seems to be the most important bit.

And when you look at it that way, everything seemed to happen exactly as it should, in its own perfect time.

Easier to say in retrospect, I guess.

And, of course, financial security is critical. I'm not necessarily advocating the "do what you love and the money will follow" approach. (And in the interests of full disclosure, I will say that I have a very supportive and generous husband who is happy to be the main breadwinner while our children are small. If this writing caper doesn't work out in the next year or so, I will be reassessing my options.)

But, if you take away anything from spending these three days with me, I hope it's that it is worth showing up and doing what you can, wherever you happen to find yourself. Even if it doesn't feel like it will lead you directly to your dream life or you have no idea what your dream life actually looks like (or are too hesitant to say it out loud).

Just keep going.

Because it just might be the thing that leads you directly to your dream life.

And sooner than me, I'll wager.

Good luck. x


  1. Good on you Kat and I wish you lots of luck - if you put in the work, the results will follow. It may not be a case of do what you love and the money will follow, but it certainly is a case of what you focus on grows. Keep the faith :)

  2. Great attitude, Kat. Go for it! :-)