I was 14 years old when I decided I wanted to become a writer. I took media studies as one of my subjects for GCSE, and I remember my media teacher quite sternly telling me that I’d never make it in the media world.
I was 19 when I got my first writing job, a freelance commission for The Debrief.
I’d always been a blogger, whether that was through Tumblr or Wordpress. I’ve always loved to write. Being a journalist was something I had always wanted — lifestyle writing, in particular. It was something I enjoyed and something I was passionate about and I longed to see my words in print some day.
Writing to me is therapeutic. I go through notebook after notebook; always starting with fancy handwriting before the pages turn into rushed scribbles to get all of my thoughts onto paper. I write a list every morning and check things off that I need to do (and things that I’ve always done, just to give myself a boost of confidence).
But despite having worked as a writer for seven years now, I still have that voice in my head telling me that I’m not good enough. That I won’t have my work commissioned. That everything I write is just rubbish.
But I continue to write — whether it’s rubbish or not — because writing is the one thing I love. It’s the one thing I am incredibly passionate about. Because it allows me to clear my head, keep myself organised and express my views more clearly.
I’ve written about mental health for a long time now. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 19, and later borderline personality disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. As you can imagine, having these conditions means that often, my head is crowded with thoughts, and I struggle to make sense of them. I also struggle to articulate my words in person, because there is so much going on in my brain.
I don’t keep a diary, because the thoughts I have — the ones that tell me I’m not good enough, that I’m a failure, and sadly that I don’t want to be here anymore — I don’t want to keep. Instead, I write letters and when I’m finished — which can be hours later — I delete them. It’s my way of getting rid of the thoughts, instead of focusing on them and ruminating over them. Sometimes the letters are to other people, sometimes they’re to myself, and sometimes they’re to nobody; what’s important is that they’re written.
I’m also incredibly passionate about getting words out there about mental illness — though sometimes I do think this makes things more difficult, because often publications want traumatic stories that I am uncomfortable with writing about. And so writing solely about mental health can be hard; so I write about other subjects close to my heart, too.
Sometimes I think writing is the only thing I can do. It’s the only practical thing. I enjoy music; I sing and play the guitar, but it’s not something I’m overly passionate about, and I know that breaking into the world of music is just not feasible. But making a living by being a writer is difficult, too.
I didn’t get into writing in the traditional way. It started with blogging and working at a press agency, before I started pitching publications with ideas. I had one commissioned and multiple rejections — but I remember the first time seeing my byline with The Debrief was an incredible feeling.
I applied for jobs, but was told again and again that I needed the right qualifications, which I didn’t have. But one day, I was given a chance.
In 2015, I applied for a job with Metro.co.uk. It was for a social producer role and I remember being very nervous; knowing that I wasn’t going to get it because I had massive imposter syndrome. I wasn’t dressed for an interview, either. Walking into Northcliffe House in my checked skirt and red boots, I was wowed by the pristine walls and floors and the spiral staircases and inside pond. I wanted to work there.
I was interviewed by the deputy editor, and though I thought the interview went well, I didn’t get the job. Instead, I later received an email asking if I would like to write freelance for them, two days a week. Of course, I said yes.
Two weeks in, the two days of freelancing turned into five days a week, and I stayed with the company for five years. It was an incredible experience and I met some great people — but I decided to leave after having my son.
After a short maternity leave, I decided that I had to leave, because I could no longer commit to full-time shifts. Instead, I become a fully-fledged freelance writer.
I wasn’t sure it was going to work at first. I was scared to enter a world that I didn’t really know. I’d had a secure job for so long, that I worried I wouldn’t be able to make it work and support my family.
But I worked hard; hours of pitching editors and making connections and rejection after rejection, until I got to the point where I could pay my rent every month.
Though I hear it was different decades ago, it is difficult being a freelance writer. You never know where your next income is going to come from, or when. You also deal with imposter syndrome over and over again due to rejections. But that email telling you you’ve been commissioned is a wonderful feeling, and makes you realise that writing is worth it.
I continue to write because writing is who I am. It’s a huge part of me. It’s not just a hobby (something many people see it as), or a job. It’s a part of you. It’s a love; a passion; it’s a constant reminder of your creativity and your drive.
Being a writer isn’t an easy job, and it is hard to make it work. But when things come together, after weeks or months of rejections, you realise it’s worth it, to do something you adore — which is also why I’m writing for Inspire the Mind, as I believe in the importance of this publication. So, you can find more of my words right here, every Monday.