My Writing Journey

Yes, I am a writer

writing desk

I was talking to someone I vaguely knew today.

“You’re a writer, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied, beaming. “Yes, I am.”

And I didn’t think anything of it.

A few years ago I might have said, “Well, yes, sort of. I try. I do write. Or try to. Of course, it might not be any good…”

And a few years before that I’d have said…well, I wouldn’t have said anything because she wouldn’t have asked the question because I wouldn’t have mentioned it before.

I’ve been writing for thirteen years. I started when I was pregnant. A first few chapters of a novel. I’ve still got it in my files somewhere. It’s about a woman who became pregnant in the run up to her wedding with all the comedy chaos and sickness that ensues. This may have been based on first person experiences.

Okay, it was pretty much, bar name changes, an autobiography. Needless to say this writing will never see the light of day.

After I had my first baby things were difficult. I didn’t realise I had depression and post traumatic stress from the birth. I just thought I was a crap mum. This meant I found it difficult being with my son all the time. So would escape into our small dining room to write. The few chapters I had written whilst pregnant evolved into something else. A story about a young mum who had depression. As before, it was pretty much autobiographical.

I kept writing the same three chapters over and over. Trying to get them perfect. Changing names of characters. But I was in a continuous loop: chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, then back to the beginning and start again. I didn’t realise at the time how much this process was actually mirroring my life. I was in a cycle. A depressive cycle. And I didn’t know how to break it.

Until I read a novel. This novel changed my life.

But it wasn’t the subject matter of the novel. It was the author who had written it. Kate Harrison, her name is. And when I searched out her name online, ten years or so ago, when the internet and blogging were in their infancy, I found she had a blog. And she was racing other writers to finish the first draft of their current novel.

She was asking for people to join. I read it with a mixture of fear and anxiety. Because I knew I was going to make myself do it. I knew I was going to make myself email Kate, who replied all lovely and then suggested I set up my own blog so we could compare word counts (this was pre-twitter and facebook). And I knew I would set up my own blog too, even though I was incredibly private and had no wish for people I didn’t know, or worse, did know, to read about what I was up to. But I did it. I started a blog. And called it Redders’ Ramblings.

I am a writer.

And this was the push I needed to get past that loop of those first three chapters. Seven or eight months later I had a completed first draft. I had written those two magic words: The End. It also, eventually, meant I could write The End on the postnatally depressed period of my life, too.

Ten years later and I’m still here. The blog is more sophisticated. I have learned about photography. I know a lot about social media. I’ve been paid to write content online. A literary agent sought me out. I’ve written a cookery book proposal. And been rejected – but in a lovely and positive way – by publishers. And I have almost finished my novel. A novel that was born out of that first draft ten years ago but with a different main character and different circumstances so it is no longer autobiographical but is based on issues I’ve experienced. There’s just 8000 words or so to go. Then there will be an edit before I email it to my agent. (My agent. That will never get old.)

So in thirteen years of writing, of attending an evening creative writing class, of taking part in an online journalism course and a course about how to pitch to magazines, of being published in a writing magazine and being paid to write online, I am now a blogger and photographer, a food stylist, and an iPhoneographer.

And, yes, I am a writer.

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  • Reply Rachel (rachel_fusion)

    Thank you for writing this. I’m still in the “well yes sort of….” stage. I seem to be a bit stuck there.

    31st March 2016 at 9:58 pm
  • Reply penny

    So impressed Helen, well done you, and I am sorry to hear of your post natal difficulties. I love writing, (it’s why I started blogging) and dream of writing ‘properly’ one day, but I have no real idea of where to start, and cannot conceive of writing a whole novel. What an amazing achievement! Congratulations x

    1st April 2016 at 9:41 am
  • Reply Kate Harrison

    Ah, I remember those days – it was an amazing journey, and yours especially. Those were special times! And you’ve done so brilliantly, I love reading what you write, and I know that when you get the right publishing offer, many many other readers will too!

    1st April 2016 at 10:01 am
  • Reply Rejane c. Seydoux

    Hi :) First of all I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your post made my day, literally. I’m 20 and it’s been almost 7 years that I write. Or at least try. I have had a short novel (30 pages) published in a local newspaper but I still can’t call myself a writer. Your post opened my eyes and made me realize that I CAN write. And I WILL write. So u truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. Xoxo

    1st April 2016 at 5:40 pm
  • Reply Jessica

    Such a lovely post. It has taken me so long to actually be able to write again. It wasn’t until my little girl went to nursery that I started again… Mainly because I used to enjoy it so much and realised I hadn’t done it for so long. Sounds like you have and continue to do great things with your writing, this post is a source of real inspiration so thanks for posting!

    1st April 2016 at 8:04 pm
  • Reply Rachel Green

    Awesome. Yes.
    I loved those early days :)

    2nd April 2016 at 10:01 am
  • Reply SarAh Church

    Great blog; heartfelt, almost sad yet inspiring all at the same time. You’ve been on an amazing road of hard work and discovery and you’re doing great things. You should be so proud. Xx

    2nd April 2016 at 11:43 am
  • Reply JULIE KIRK

    I struggle to say that too. Mainly because I don’t – yet – make my living from writing. And it annoys me that I link it to income … but some ways of thinking run deep.

    I remember vividly a tutor of mine – probably in my first year of my English degree – telling my class we were all writers. We wrote and were therefore writers. And ever since [and it’s been a long time!] I’ve wanted to truly believe it. So I write it in my online bios anyway and hope that one day it will feel real.

    Best of luck with your …. everything. This was a pleasure to read today. An inspiration.

    p.s: I hopped over here from the Blogtacular FB group.

    4th April 2016 at 12:31 pm
  • Reply Helen Redfern

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! to everyone who has commented. I’m so touched by your lovely comments. xx

    4th April 2016 at 6:58 pm
  • Reply laura

    Again Helen I’ve been inspired by your lovely post. You have achieved a lot. I look forward one day to be able to say with confidence that I am a writer but in the meantime your writing has encouraged me to keep trying, thank you ☺

    4th April 2016 at 9:03 pm
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Laura, if you write, you are a writer. Honestly. Keep going. Keep writing. x

      5th April 2016 at 9:12 am
  • Reply Amelia May

    This was so inspiring…wonderful!

    Keep Calm and start writing

    5th July 2016 at 7:52 am
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