I remember one beach holiday on the north coast of NSW, Australia – I was a young teenager at the time – when I spent almost all of the time (except when we all went off to learn how to waterski) lying on the floor of the beach house my parents had rented and luxuriating in writing stories while my brothers and sisters did stuff that you’re supposed to do when you spend your holidays at the beach: swimming, getting tumbled by waves, building sand castles, getting sunburnt, digging up sand crabs… you get the idea. I don’t recall that they commented on my preference to stare at the squiggly lines I covered pages with rather than enjoying the glorious outdoors – but then, they were always a tolerant lot.
I’ve loved to create stories for as long as I can remember; characters come tumbling out of my brain and worlds develop around them. I have always wanted to be a writer but, somehow, life got in the way – with writing happening “in between”. Not that I regret the eddies of my life. I grew up in a lovely, noisy, active, Dutch/Indonesian-origin migrant family, the second child of eight with a father and mother who knew how to laugh, had a keen interest in not taking anything for granted, and loved to philosophise and read books; they valued education and thoughtfulness. Reflecting now on my childhood, I often wonder why, given that I was often scribbling stories, that my parents didn’t encourage me to take up a writing career. I asked my mother about it once (when I was already in my fifties); she said that “It just never occurred to us” – funnily enough, it never occurred to me either.
So, instead of following a writing career, I travelled – first around Australia, then to Europe. I took on a variety of jobs to fund my wanderlust: picking and packing fruit, cleaning houses, working in factories, housekeeping, stacking supermarket shelves, and operating switchboards. After some years, I realised that I was good at organising things and people, so I trained to be a secretary, then a manager, then found I liked academic pursuits, so I wrote a thesis, managed to put a Dr in front of my name then a string of other qualifications after my name. While I was doing all that I met a wonderful man and we both started a family, built a house with ocean views and worked together as management consultants till I couldn’t stand the corporate world, with its wealth – and, often, vague morals – anymore. I turned my attention to community work and environmental advocacy (one child in a baby backpack, the other on my hip, then – when the babies got too active – into long day care centres, then school – this arrangement meant frequent mad dashes from endless rounds of meetings arguing for some cause or another through the traffic to ensure children were picked up on time).
A long family cycle and train holiday through Europe convinced us it was time to get off the treadmill. We moved to the country (to the horror of our teenage sons!), renovated another house – in the meantime I’m still doing research and writing reports! Interesting stuff BUT … I looked at my filing cabinet full of stories with my brain still spilling more worlds and characters; I internalised that my sons are now grown into fine young men (the best!) with their own lives and I didn’t have to backstop anymore; my paying work was not so…urgent (!). Time to get my stories out!
There are thousands (millions!) of books around. Do we really need more? But there you are – I figure that, like for any creative endeavour, it is not that we “need” more stories or other works of art; but I hope, as any creator does, that the world will be a richer, more enjoyable place with the existence of my creations.