In the last lockdown, I wrote a novel. It wasn't like the creative outpourings that people have between baking banana bread and yoga with Adriene. I had a deadline. Some days I was convinced I would never be able to get through the brain fog caused by living through a pandemic. Slowly, the panic subsided, and all the distractions of everyday life disappeared, I realized that words started to appear. My second book was more fluid and focused than the first.
This is not surprising. My second child was on maternity leave when I began my debut. Since childhood, I had always wanted to write a novel. I was one those bookish children whose weekly highlight was a trip to the library. I spent most of my teenage years writing short stories and the beginnings of novels. They never seemed to get anywhere. After completing my English degree, I joined an English writing group and began a thriller.
My friends were fellow journalists. We all started out as journalists. While some of us continued to write, I was consumed by my career at first women's magazines, then at The Guardian. If I am honest, I was also overwhelmed by self-doubts and feelings of inadequacy. It's one thing to say that you are writing a novel at 15; it's another. At 25 I was aware that there were too many great books and writers out there, so I knew I wouldn't be able attempt anything even remotely comparable. It was too easy to forget about trying.
In fact, I have not written a single word of fiction for 10 years. It's incredible that I was able shut down this side of me, looking back.
Ten years ago, I did not write any fiction. It's amazing that I was able, now that I think back, to shut down this side of me completely. But, I decided to put aside the short stories and the novel that I was half-way through. I believed it was all childish fantasies. It was embarrassing to tell anyone that I had written about it. It was a shock to me then that so many people nurtured their writings.
Vanessa Grzywacz was born dreaming to be an illustrator. She says that as a child, I used to draw funny sketches and cartoons all over school folders. She says that I enjoyed reading comics for children and would draw them in my school folders. However, after attending art school, I didn't know how to get commissions. She considered a career as a magazine editor, but it seemed more realistic. So, she closed her creative doors. She says that I gave up my illustration and eventually became a freelancer to accommodate her family life.
According to Linda Blair, psychologist, it is not unusual to put aside a childhood ambition. Linda Blair, a psychologist, says it is not unusual to put aside a youthful ambition. You might think, "I feel like I have the family I want and yet I still have the urge to create." What else could I do? So I signed up to a secret creative writing class, returning to the novel that I had written all those years ago.
After four years of juggling writing with family and work, I finally had a completed manuscript. It wasn't until I realized it would be published that my confidence was restored to the childhood dream. As I was writing my second novel, we were locked down.
Grzywacz's creativity was sparked by the pandemic. She says that most of my freelance work in design was cancelled after it happened. As a way of keeping a positive family journal, I began to draw again. My drawings were posted on Instagram by @vanessagdraws and people seemed to love them.
Blair says that the disruptions of the past 18 months in our daily lives have prompted people to reevaluate their lives and reconnect to their former selves. She explains that we are usually conditioned to behave the same way as yesterday. The deeper the habit, the more we repeat it. When you hit a wall for any reason, you suddenly can't do the things you used to.
The ballet world is the setting for Erin Kelly's latest thriller, Watch Her Fall. She was inspired by her childhood love of dance to go back during lockdown. Although I was not a sporty child, I loved dancing, even as a clumsy teenager. I picked up lessons again recently. She says that she was working on a novel about two rival ballet dancers, and what began as an online class for research soon became a daily routine. Every day I attended a barre class in the morning, when it was quiet outside. It was the only time I had control over my day. It was a great discipline. I also loved being able to be a student again.
Kelly doesn't plan to quit her day job but Grzywacz is determined to fulfill her childhood dream professionally. Recently, I have been featured in the Daily Mirror and Euro news. I am still a freelance magazine designer but I also work on a graphic book.
Lee Chambers dreamed to be a psychologist but was discouraged. "There weren't any black psychologists to learn from."
Lee Chambers was affected by a life-altering illness. This forced him to reevaluate his childhood ambitions. I was the son of mixed-race teenager parents in Bolton. He says that I was an extremely curious and scientific child who was obsessed with the human mind and body. After studying international business psychology at Manchester, he had dreams of becoming a psychologist. However, he was eventually discouraged. I was raised on a council estate, and I wasn't very wealthy. He explains that I didn't have the same connections as others. He was the only black male psychologist. In 2014, his immune system crashed and he lost his ability to walk. He says that he spent one year learning how to walk again, and that he had plenty of time to reflect. I realized that my business wasn't fulfilling me and that I needed to pursue something that made me happy. At 36, he is now a psychologist. Although it's difficult to explain, I feel like I am on the right track.
It took Priscilla many more years to create the business that would fulfill her dreams. Born in Malaysia, she long to be an artist but ended up choosing an architecture degree. She found it dull and boring. She is now 70 and lives in Hong Kong. Two years ago, she founded Tofu-Dogart. She paints portraits with dogs and takes commissions around the world.
In my 30s I was worried that I had already lost the opportunity to write again. I was 42 when I published my first novel. I found that I wasn't the only one who waited until the right time. Blair says that some people see getting older as a time to give back. You might think that I have earned my privileges and I've done what I wanted to do. Now it is time to be creative. Recent turning 50 has given me renewed confidence to do new things and be fearless. She says that if something works, it will work, and if not, it will be tried again. Every morning I get up with a new idea and I can't wait to start drawing it. I have learned over the years that life is short and there is no time for waste.
HarperCollins publishes The House Guest by Charlotte Northedge at 14.99 Guardianbookshop.com offers a 13.04 copy.