It’s been a while since the last time I saw you, a couple of years at least, and you probably wouldn’t recognise me now if I passed you in the street. I doubt you’ve given me a moment’s thought since your last day at the organisation where we both worked at the time, and I doubt even more that you even remember the conversation we had, over a beer in a little arcade in the city a few days before you left.
You, who had had some professional involvement with writing and journalism, had kindly offered to have a chat with me about my writing ambitions and dreams, and of course I jumped at the chance. An opportunity to pick the brains of a published writer (well, you’d authored a few newspaper articles for the local rag in town) was not to be missed. I needed a boost, something to remind me that I was more than the sum of the dull, low-level secretarial work I’d been doing for too many years.
As we sipped cold beers and smoked your rollie cigarettes, I excitedly outlined my plans, hopes, and ambitions for the writing I wanted to do. I told you of my passion for protecting the environment, and how I wanted to write books, articles and presentations on this subject. I told you I was interested in being a social commentator, exposing hypocrisy and highlighting the forgotten and the dispossessed. You watched me, drawing deeply on your cigarettes, while I talked with shining eyes about my deepest creative urges, and then you told me what you thought.
Grinding your rollie stub into an ashtray, you proceeded to list to me each and every reason why everything I had just said wouldn’t work. My lack of a PhD meant that no-one would be interested in reading what I had to say and from your raised eyebrow my Bachelor of Communication and postgrad Diploma of Education didn’t count for much. You told me not to waste my time writing a book as without letters after my name or experience in the field it would never be published. Daunted, I asked hopefully about writing articles, but you thought that wouldn’t be any use either, citing my lack of either contacts or a portfolio. I left that conversation with my self-confidence in tatters, until I got a grip and realised that nothing you said was about me. You hadn’t even seen my writing!
I’ve wondered since that day, Liz, did you once have writerly ambitions yourself? Ambitions greater than seeing your byline above small-town newsprint? Did you want to poison someone else’s dreams the way you’d poisoned your own? Or did you think that because you’d only ever seen me filing and typing, that’s all I’d ever be good for?
The thing is, Liz, I want to thank you. Because ever since that conversation with you my determination to be a writer, and make a living from what I love, has been stronger than ever. Your lack of belief in me that day paradoxically strengthened my belief in myself, and feeling disappointed at not finding kindness and support in another, I realised those things had to first come from within me.
I just can’t wait for that day, Liz, when my first book is published. I hope you see it on a bookshelf somewhere, and wonder why the name on the cover seems vaguely familiar to you. I hope you open it up, and blink in confusion and surprise. Because it’ll be dedicated to you.