As a child and a million years before Youtube and the internet, I spent most of my time inventing stories and illustrating them. My first full length (exercise book) tale was called Mr Mint and the monster — I found it a few months back while cleaning mum’s house out, the pages soft with layers of coloured pencil and rubbings out.
My next epic story writing was at Art College where I studied photography and film. Rather than writing a thesis on an aspect of photography or semiotics, I requested that I write a series of short stories: which I did and luckily the examiners seemed to like. Sadly for me I have lost the black bound book containing the hundreds of pages that I painstakingly typed in front of a mobile gas heater in our hideous freezing student house.
Next big stage in writing/illustration for me was a children’s book. When we had arrived at the ‘fussy eating’ stage of our child’s life, I felt compelled to share the frustration with everyone else and started on an idea involving ‘The Beastis’, dog-like characters that had first appeared on our home-made jam labels. After a zillion rejection letters and many style changes, I was lucky enough to find an agent, (hello Celia, if you read this) and the book was published by Puffin in 2004. I then wrote many many stories, mainly for our son, involving the Beastis, but wandered off into the realms of landscape painting when we moved to France.
So day jobs . . . yes. Why did I do all those different things? Necessity certainly, but all those jobs have proved useful, however boring they were at the time. Useful for writing for sure.
I was just thinking earlier about writing them all down. So I think I will.
First job ever: working at Mrs Batchelors corner shop for fifty pence a morning.
Following on, series of babysitting jobs, car washing, dog walking, paper round, looking after a baby for a whole summer (that was terrifying).
Later: Bar maid in four different pubs, waitress, kitchen assistant, assistant in old peoples home, bookshop staff person, Boots staff person, Mars bar factory worker, gardener, cleaner, painter and decorator, brief flirt with car bodywork, after school childcare.
At College: Fish and chip shop staff person, bar maid, waitress, cook, ceramic rooms cleaner, DJ.
After college: Photographic assistant then apprentice to a room-set stylist. Estate agent blurb writer, magazine article writer/photographer, architect impressions maker.Then full time stylist and china hire-shop partner. Styling needs a sub category of just about anything you could think of: Detective, taxi driver, model maker, painter, cook, dog trainer, school teacher, robber, inventor, bullshitter, diplomat, location finder, actor, director, etc etc. One day is never the same as another.
I tried to escape this mad world by taking a sideways jump into textile design, painted furniture, jewellery making, illustration and back to writing. Finally stopped styling by moving countries.
Now we ‘get by’ by doing anything that comes along while working on our own real projects, in my case, writing and painting. Et voila. Sorry about the list, I just had to do that. But if you do read the books later, you’ll see where the jobs slot in.