End of term today - returned home with armfuls of washing, paintings and the much anticipated report. Couldn't control a delighted smile as I read the little one enjoys writing and illustrating books in class. There are loads of things they don't tell you about motherhood. For example:
1) for the forseeable future you will rarely shower in peace or visit the bathroom alone
2) you will never finish drinking a cup of coffee or tea
3) you will become that harassed looking woman with the rolling eyes in the supermarket pretending that the toddler lying on the floor kicking his legs is not yours .... and
4) you will learn just as much from your children as they will from you.
Children are natural polymaths - it blows me away seeing the breadth of subjects she has covered this year. Add to this the hobbies - clarinet, riding, ballet, tennis, and my life looks rather limited in comparison. I love the sense of limitless potential that lies ahead for her. When I think back to everything I loved at that age - books, music, horses, art, I remember loving them with such fresh passion. Take a leaf out of your childrens' books and rediscover that. Let yourself go. The picture is of an art consultancy commission I did for the Allied Irish Bank last year - a fantastic Irish sculptor called Catherine Greene. After we'd installed her angel, we had to leave it taped up for the night while it settled on its marble plinth. It was a great commission - everyone was thrilled, and I loved the idea of someone at the bank the next morning slowly unwinding the angel's ties and letting her go ...
Trying to limit that sense of freedom backfired for me at least. For years wanting to write books for a living seemed like a dream. Grown ups encourage you to Do Something Sensible. The first thing I settled on was a vet - not just any vet, a zoo vet. I wanted to work with big cats - lions and tigers, or failing that horses. Somewhere mid O-levels, I decided I really wanted to be an architect. I was thinking Richard Rogers, Norman Foster ... two weeks' work experience in Wales being driven round measuring up damp barns by a chain-smoking hippy with BO called Barry in a Reliant Robin (you couldn't make it up, could you?) was enough to put me off. I ended up as a fine art consultant working in palaces and embassies across Europe and the Middle East - more fat cats than big cats.
I don't regret those early passions - I still love animals, nature, the countryside, and ended up qualifying as an interior designer so we could convert our first home, but the only thing I didn't grow out of was writing. It grew with me. I still love everything about it - books, libraries, the aesthetic quality of text and fonts. I read somewhere a while ago that writers write. Sounds obvious doesn't it? There are loads of people who say 'I want to be a writer,' but how many people really do 'have a book in them?'
We're in the midst of one of those family crises that suddenly brings everything into sharp perspective. Life suddenly seems very precious, and my determination to see this first book published soon, and then produce a book a year after that is stronger than ever. Life's short. Do what you love. Let me pass on the single best piece of advice I was ever given - write something every single day, whatever you can manage. A best-selling writer I know is currently aiming for 6000 words a day. The best day I ever had was 5000. But then I'm a newbie and the sky is the limit ... Whether it is six or six thousand words, they add up. Ask a child what a writer does and they will say 'Writers write.' Simple, really.