Never give up on your dreams

After a couple of difficult years I was determined, on 1st January 2011, that 2011 would be my year. I would really work on my writing, get fit and lose the extra weight which not so much crept on as leapt on after my return from Peru, and get started on my life’s goal: to earn a living from writing books. It doesn’t have to be a grand living, I just need to be able to eat and pay the bills, with a little extra for chocolate. That’s fine by me.

So far, I am in two minds about how this is working out for me. So I’m not going to talk about me. I’m going to talk about my grandmother. It’s relevant, I promise.

My grandmother, Joan Mary Barnes, was born on 12th September 1918. She got a scholarship to study at Queen Mary College in London, beginning her course there in 1936. I would later, in 1997, apply and be accepted to the same university, not knowing at the time that it was where both she and my grandfather studied and where they met. She lied about her age in order to marry him before he was called up in September, 1939.

She went on to become a biochemist and worked for a while at a hospital in London where Sir Alexander Fleming was based (Penicillin, anyone?). He encouraged her to do a PhD as it would allow her to do research and she went on to work with Wellcome and Glaxo (heard of them?). When my grandfather was posted to the United States (he was in the RAF) she went with him and got a job with a guy working on the new polio vaccine. She was then headhunted back to the UK to work for Glaxo, developing the polio vaccine she had been working on in the States.

When she and my grandfather retired, he had already spent his spare time over the previous seven years building a yacht which they then spent ten years in, sailing around the Mediterranean Sea. I wish I had a scanner so that I could show you the only photo I have of that yacht. She was called Aurora Mare and she was breathtakingly beautiful. White hull, two wooden masts, gleaming wooden cabin and a low curving line.

Please bear in mind that, in the 50s and 60s, by far the majority of women in the workforce were secretaries and/or receptionists. My grandmother was a biochemist, and usually head of her department. She was also a good person – in Cincinnati a black member of her team was surprised beyond words when she invited him to bring his wife round for dinner.

Now, I’m not telling you this to big up my grandmother… ok, I am, just a bit, and I’ll tell you why. She died just over two weeks ago, at the age of 92, following a stroke last August which I think was just one in a series. But she had led a wonderful life and never let anyone or anything stand in her way. She chose to take the encouragement she received and work with it and ignore those who thought she shouldn’t be in her job – “men’s work”, etc.

As writers we can all apply this to our lives and goals as writers. She told me once “D [my grandfather] always used to tease me that I always had some project on the go. We would no sooner finish one than I was planning the next one.” There will always be people who think we are insane (most of my immediate family can be taken as examples) for thinking we can get published and worse for thinking we can earn a living at it. There will always be people who try to drag us down, back into the “real” world, either deliberately or unconsciously, through jealousy or genuine concern. To give my family credit, I think it’s concern and not jealousy that motivates their behaviour.

As writers we shouldn’t pay them any attention. These are our lives and no one else can live them for us. No one else will achieve our dreams for us. And the most important thing is that, at the end of our lives, no one will look back through our eyes and say “Damn, what a ride!”. Life is too short to hold back or be afraid of what might be. Everyone is ready to congratulate you when you make it, but the only person that will get you there is yourself.

Advertisements

About Mhairi Simpson

Writer, dreamer. Magic, dragons, pink mice, cake. Come say hi!
This entry was posted in About Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Never give up on your dreams

  1. Hi

    I totally agree with you – Life is too short.

    Excellent post.

    Some facts: Sir Alexander Fleming was born in Darvel, Ayrshire – just over 25 miles from where I live.
    And I am allergic to penicillin.

    Stay Alive
    N

  2. Hey, I’m coming over as part of the crusades. I loved your post. My own grandmother passes away two weeks ago as well. She would have been 80 next month. Isn’t it wonderful to have strong women in our lives to leave us a legacy? I thought many of the same things you mentioned and decided no matter what the result is, if I’m giving it my best shot I can be proud of my accomplishments. That’s what my grandma taught me.

    Oh, and how to make one mean pot of pinto beans and corn bread. 🙂 Comfort food that will always remind me of her.

    • Right! It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we decide to just go for it and not to let ourselves be held back. And isn’t it wonderful how the recipes stay with us too? For me it’s marble cake and cheese biscuits. I’ve got a box of index cards with all her recipes written on them. Thanks for dropping by, crusader 🙂

  3. Gail says:

    Hi, I’m new to your blog via Andrew Jack’s Writing Blog. 🙂
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    I enjoyed reading your poignant memories of family.
    I agree that writers must accept responsibity for their success by setting goals accordingly.

    • I’m glad! I used to think that I would end up a writer just because I wanted to, that it would somehow magically happen. Ha! The ignorance of youth 🙂 Thanks for dropping by – I hope to see you here again!

  4. Michael says:

    Hello, I subscribed to your post via the email option. I’ve a feeling I’m gonna be visiting your blog quite often as I’m really interested in writing sci-fi and that seems to be an interest of yours too. 🙂

    • Thank you! Sci-fi is one of those things like an on-again, off-again boyfriend for me: I’m really not sure if I handle it well, but something makes me want to keep trying! My first novel was sci-fi and when I finish my current WIP I will go back and edit the other and see what can be done with it 🙂 Fantasy is my main love, but sci-fi…

  5. Amy Atwell says:

    Saw this on Twitter, and it’s a beautiful and inspiring post. What a wonderful example your grandmother set for women of the future–including you! I’m sorry for your family’s loss, but it sounds like she lived a grand life. We lost our father last month, and it’s hard. But there does come a time when the next generation steps up to prove what lessons they learned. Best wishes on your writing!

    • Thank you! She didn’t want a ceremony or anything like that, so I suppose this is my way of paying homage to her. I don’t think she would mind. It is hard, but as long as we take away something from having had these people in our lives, they are never truly gone. That’s what I believe, anyway 🙂

      Follow me on Twitter, if you are so inclined. I’m just shutting down for the night, but I will follow back tomorrow 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s