For the past 7 years I have worked part time as the Registrar for a small choir school. It was never meant to be forever and the plan had been that I would leave two years ago. However, for a variety of reasons I was persuaded to stay and it is only now that I have finally managed to successfully hand in my resignation. The plan is to concentrate on writing whilst scraping a living with our translation business.
It all seemed perfectly sensible to me, but clearly not to everyone else. Now is the time, as I speak to colleagues in other schools and so forth to explain that I will be leaving at the end of this term and to introduce them to my replacement. The responses have been interesting.
The first question is, understandably, to enquire where I am going. I am tempted to reply, “the kitchen table” but have held my tongue and instead I explain I am going to concentrate on writing. This is where the responses diverge.
The first group ask if I know what I am going to write. Once again I rein in the urge to be facetious and do not say “I was thinking a book might be fun.” Rather I explain that I have already completed one book and am now researching the background material for the second. At this point interest usually flags and I am relieved to move on and tell them how wonderful my replacement is (she is) and how she will be so much better than me to work with (I am sure she will be).
The second group are far more scary, they are genuinely interested and want to know what the book is about, who my characters are, how long it took to write, what my influences were and how long it is. Answering these questions requires an openness and vulnerability. In my responses I am exposing myself to potential ridicule.
The easiest group to deal with are those who ask if I have sent it to a publisher. Few non-writers have grasped the concept of a literary agent. It is still a commonly held belief that once the manuscript is done and dusted it passes straight to Publisher, does not pass Agent and does not give Agent £200. To these a quick explanation of the author, agent, and publisher polyamoric relationship is quite sufficient.
Finally there is me. What is my response to the idea that I am giving up an, albeit not particularly well paid, 2 day a week job to write at my kitchen table? For years I have longed for this, for many years beforehand I have been a stay at home / work at home mother. I am not unfamiliar with the need for strict self-control and an off switch for the internet. However, the last time I gave up work I did so to look after three children under three. I didn’t have a lot of time to wonder what I was going to do next. This time my children are getting ready to fly the nest. This year the Office Christmas Party will be me, three dogs, five cats and an ill-tempered parrot and a bloody good party it will be too.
Oh and one person asked if I was retiring. As they have never met me in person I am prepared to forgive this social slip. However, I am now somewhat concerned that my voice is not as young as its owner.