Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Becoming a Writer Was NOT a Foregone Conclusion.


Despite writing all through my teenage years, I never took it, or myself, seriously. I was well aware I was writing rubbish. I’d managed to get into Grammar school but I wasn’t in the top set. If I received a B+ for an English essay I was pleased with myself, usually getting no better than a B or B- . I felt that I was intelligent, but I couldn’t prove it. I was too impatient, careless or lazy. (In recent years I’ve become convinced that I am on the dyslexia spectrum, something that was not even recognised at the time.) So, the fact that my hobby was to write (or, more precisely, to begin writing) romantic novels, did not mean I harboured ambitions to be an author. I knew I wasn’t clever enough. It meant only that writing answered a need in me, satisfying my pubescent cravings for love. After all, “Art” was where I was headed in life. My parents were convinced of it, I agreed with them. It was the only subject I was unarguably good at. And yet, and yet..........



I have a vivid recollection of travelling home on a commuter train from Charing Cross, to my family home in Orpington, Kent. I was working at the time as a sales assistant in a department store. At the time I saw this as a short interlude between art-college and a “proper” job, but as time ticked by, and the number of West End stores I'd worked in multiplied, I became increasingly depressed. A situation not improved by the continuing desert of my  love-life.

The train crossed The Thames and I was struck by a stunning sunset over the Palace of Westminster. I stared and stared as we travelled through Waterloo and then London Bridge, where the rail track skims the roof-tops. I found myself trying to find a satisfactory way to describe the sky. And I wasn’t simply listing the colours I saw but trying to construct the most lucid and engaging form of words to precisely convey the scene. The way the blue of the sky grew watery, bleeding down to a luminous duck egg green, how the bruise dark clouds reared up, slashed horizontally where the light from the setting sun bled through in gouts of brilliant orange and scarlet. (I told you the memory was vivid!) But even as I stared, shuffling words and sentences in my head, I remember thinking that as a supposed artist I should be mentally selecting the paints with which I’d render the scene. Why was I trying to describe it in words?


More than a decade and a half later I’d worked for years as an illustrator in advertising, I’d met and married my husband, I’d had our son Tom and he was in his fourth year. I began to wonder what I could do from home to earn money. Free-lance art work was a possibility, but with a toddler in tow it would be difficult. I did do some work in those early days of motherhood, but I postponed a real push to get back into commercial art until Tom was older. It was then the light bulb went on above my head and I made the decision that would alter my life. “I know what I’ll do now, I’ll write a novel.”

6 comments:

Jane Risdon said...

Fabulous piece to read and so interesting and vivid. I am so impressed you were an illustrator, how amazing. Wishing you every success in whatever else you do Gilli. :)

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks Jane. You're very kind. Illustrator probably makes it sound grander than it was. I did earn my living by drawing, but my efforts were not usually seen in finished adverts. I was on the 'visualising' end of the business - story-boards for commercials and 'roughs' of the art directors ideas which would later be photographs (usually completely different to the original concept!), and sometimes, product mock-ups. I've done more in the way of real illustration in the last 5 years for my son's books.

margaret blake said...

Very interesting and heart warming description of how you became a writer. Inspirational for us all. Wishing you lots of success in the future.

Gilli Allan said...

Thank you Margaret. It's always appreciated when someone bothers to comment.

Julie Stock said...

How lovely to see those pictures of you when you were younger, Gilli! And to read about how you got started with your writing. A very touching post xx

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks Julie.