Slow build

One of my posts, 2015: my year of writing, was a sort of call to arms. It was a way to try to get me to blog more, to write more and to basically take the leap – when the time was right – and hope for the best.

Unfortunately 2015 was not exactly as successful, in the writing sense, as I hoped. The regular gig was my writing for Together magazine and I sort of let the blog go, perhaps because I was running out of steam, and other things in my life were becoming more of a priority.

However, a couple of months ago I sort of came to the scary realisation that I can no longer pretend that I will be content doing the day job for the rest of my life, and if I don’t sort of get a move on, and have a crack at giving the writing a go, I might miss my chance, and I might regret it.

As I’ve spoken to people, read up on how to make the leap and heeded the pleas of my other half to not just quit without a plan, I imagine that a bit of a plan will help to make the transition a little less scary.

The plan is this: write more, save cash and quit job. I also have a deadline. And I’ve told as many people as possible of my plan so that I don’t chicken out of it (it’s very easy to do so when you work in a golden cage). Finally, it will be slow and I might not have any money for a long time. Eeek.

2016 has been pretty darn awesome – my editorial internship at Delayed Gratification, my Together gig, and some friends have asked me to write for them. Yes! Also, I volunteered for this year’s TEDxBrusselsWomen conference. I met a particularly mouthy and inspiring freelance journalist Rosie Spinks who gave me good advice on how to become a writer (basically: just write and keep at it). For the Tedx blog, I interviewed a really fantastic British engineer  – MBE at 30, energy manager at Starbucks, Asian, a woman, just yay! – and I wrote about how women should have more of a say in their health technology.

In other news: On the advice of Rolf Dobelli’s essay I’ve quit reading news websites and subscribed to The New Yorker instead – I feel like my English is improving with every sentence I read! Also, I interviewed my parents back in 2009 to learn more about their lives as youngsters and only just transcribing the interviews now. I really recommend interviewing your parents!

Till next time,

Gemma Rose



2015: My year of writing

Now I know there is no value in sitting about wishing and hoping. If I’m daydreaming about something, it’s down to me to make it happen.

– Daisy Buchanan, ‘Lessons in life that online dating taught me’, The Guardian

2014 was the year of meeting more men. I wrote about it in my article ‘The art of conversation’ for Together magazine. I realised that if I wanted to meet the right person for me, I had to have a good idea about what I was looking for and then get out there and look for it. I learnt that my love life is in my hands.

It has been over two years since I started Living room philosophy. Thanks to the blog, I got the opportunity to write for Together magazine: my very own personal development column. Thanks to the magazine, I did my first interview: it was with Ratna Osman, from Sisters in Islam, an NGO fighting for equality and justice for muslim women in Malaysia. I will post the interview on the blog soon.

I am so thankful that my writing is gaining traction, although I admit I’d like to do more and I guess I am looking for that lucky break: the opportunity to write full-time on the topics that really interest me. The freedom to choose and still be able to make a decent living.

Earning a living is for me what makes writing as a career so scary. I hear a lot about how journalism doesn’t pay, it’s all about free content, and it’s best to find other lucrative channels to support your writing. Yet, I can’t help but feel that earning a living in the arts has always been tough and always will be. Plus, I hear that some people do earn a good living: a journalist recently told me that he’s faring very well. In Margaret Atwood’s book ‘Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing’, she accepted that when she started out in late 1950s Canada as a poet, she definitely wasn’t going to earn money. But she did.

For making the transition into writing, the most sensible advice I’ve read (and heard) is to start building it up slowly and then make the leap when I have the resources to. As the Guardian journalist George Monbiot says in his article about career advice, “Work hard, but don’t rush. Build your reputation slowly and steadily.” And he thinks specialisation, instead of what journalism school (and actually many schools) thinks is a trap, is actually the key to escaping the trap: “You can become the person editors think of when they need to cover a particular issue from a particular angle (that is to say your angle). They then respond to your worldview, rather than you having to respond to theirs.”

So 2015 is going to be my year of more writing: more blog posts and more published articles. And just like my love life, my career is in my hands.