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Rachel Ward Blog Tour: When I Grow Up…

Someone asked Neil Gaiman, the brilliant writer of ‘The Graveyard Book’ and many others, ‘I want to be an author when I grow up. Am I insane?’ His answer: ‘Yes. Growing up is highly overrated. Just be an author.’

I’m 48. I’ve got a house, a car, a husband, two kids, a dog and four chickens. It sounds pretty grown up, right? And sometimes I feel pretty grown up too – when I pay my credit card bill or get someone in to unblock the drains or arrange travel insurance, Other times too, when I lose myself in looking after other people – when my kids are ill or unhappy or tired and unreasonable and somehow I find reservoirs of patience and kindness that last until they feel better, or sitting in a hospital waiting room knowing that I’ve got a long day of waiting ahead and I’m going to have to keep it all together.

Being a grown up means I don’t worry quite so much what people think of me as I used to. I can eat what I want when I want, wear what I want and, these days, pretty much do what I want as well. Apart from random acts of fate, which you have to deal with at any age, I feel like I’m the author of my own story.

I write about teenagers, from their point of view, and while some of it is simply making stuff up, imagining what it’s like to be someone else, I’m aware that sometimes I’m mining my own teenage feelings, drawing on the emotions and insecurities that I had then.

I was quite a sad child and a depressed teenager. At various times in my childhood and adolescence I was prescribed, and took, anti-depressant tablets. I can remember the little purple pills in my school lunchbox. Looking back, I can hardly believe it happened, but it did.

I started to feel happier in my twenties, and being in a stable, loving relationship and having kids changed my life. I didn’t start writing until my mid-thirties, and I honestly don’t think I could have written my books before then. Maybe it’s not growing up, maybe it’s just putting enough distance between the teenage me and me now. It’s fine to look back and revisit those feelings – they can’t hurt me now. I’ve been happy for 25 years or so now and I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll ever go back to those purple pills.

Some writers know that this is what they want to do from a very early age. It took me much longer to find writing, and when I did, I did it in a quiet, almost secret way, learning through writing (and reading, I guess) and I think that happened for a reason. It was just the way it had to be. I had to grow up a bit, or at least grow older. I had to be grown up enough to write.

By the way, my shower outlet is still blocked. Does anyone know a good plumber?

Thanks Rachel for sharing this brilliant insight into what it takes to be a writer, and a grown up, and your path to becoming an author. Rachel’s new book, The Drowning, has recently been published by the lovely folk over at Chicken House and my review of it went up yesterday if you fancy checking it out. 

  • Wow, what a fantastic post! I love getting insights into authors like this.

  • Thanks, Sophie, and thanks to Raimy for hosting this. I feel like I might have revealed a little too much about my tender insides. Two more posts to go and then I’ll crawl back into my nice hard shell, but I did think it important to tell teenagers that although things can seem bleak, they can get better with a little patience. You never know how your life will turn out. 🙂