There have been times when it doesn’t seem to matter what I do, the only solution is an enormous, leap off edge of the cliff to get my life moving again. It would appear that I am in the midst of one of those moments again.
Six years ago I decided I wanted to pursue a childhood dream of writing. Forget that I had made my career in languages and management, was in the midst of pursuing a degree international trade, and that I was on the side of 35 where you are supposed to be fairly settled. Especially when you have three children in tow. There were a lot of other upheavals occurring in my life at the time that we won’t bother going into right now but which really should have satisfied my need for change.
So, fast forward to 2007. I was working as a staff reporter for Straight Furrow, an agricultural weekly newspaper that had just been bought out by Fairfax. I had no formal journalism qualifications but I had a ton of life experience and a fantastic editor – Jeff Smith – who encouraged me for whatever reason to reach a bit higher. Jeff can be gruff and rough and on occasion a serious pain in the ass – and I would work for him again in a heart beat. I don’t ever remember him saying no I could not chase a story – he let me find out for myself if the chase was worth it or not. He also let me fall over my feet at times. Under his guidance I interviewed Andrew Ferrier, Sir Henry van der Heyden, David Carter and a guy who was poised to upset the Labour Party run at rule – John Key.
The Key story wasn’t that great – he had just been made leader of the National Party and I met him at his home in Parnell. He wanted to do the photos on a farm out in Helensville but he had another meeting immediately after so I had to follow him out West, then I’d park my car and continue to the farm where we would do the photos. I remember nodding mindlessly in agreement at these plans, cursing my high heels donned for what I had thought would be a sit down interview, and praying I would not get lost on the Western motorway. The thought of having to call the future Prime Minister and beg him to rescue me did not bear thinking about.
Jeff put the story on the cover of that week’s issue – along with my awful photos (it’s a skill I’m still working on) – and we went to print. We were the first ag paper to talk to Key as party leader and the first to put him on the cover and although the story wasn’t that great I am still to this day extraordinarily proud of getting it.
Not all of my stories were impacted by my nerves however and some of them I think, I hope, were actually quite good. Especially the one covering a spat between Fonterra and Affco.
Unfortunately for me I desperately needed to earn a better salary. I say unfortunately because I think if I had been able to work more with Jeff I could have become a good journalist. Maybe even a very good journalist. But I needed more money so I started sniffing around.
I ended up applying for an editorial coordinator’s role on the grounds I had enough management experience for the admin required and there would be enough writing, even if only advertorial, to keep me happy. Once in the interview I found they needed more of a Group Editor and less of a coordinator. I had enough common sense to know I had not been in the industry long enough to even be in the running.
Proving that common sense means precious little in the real world.
I started work with BMP as editor of Business to Business and a new paper that was about to be launched – Rural Living. There was more writing and less admin than I had dared hope for and I had a company car, a phone, a laptop and a decent salary. I threw myself into the job and discovered to my surprise I was actually quite good at editing.
For the past three and a half years I have worked 60 – 70 hour weeks and never regretted a minute. We now have a full editorial team and the portfolio has four publications and two weekly e-newsletters. My title is Publications Editor and I’m told I have a bit of a following. I don’t know, I’m still surprised anybody reads anything I write – including this blog.
I do know the profile of both publications has lifted and the days of hearing “you’re from where?” are long gone. Both have market place recognition and I’d like to think I helped with that – and loved every minute.
So I guess that is why everyone was surprised when I handed in my notice late last month and said I would not be back in 2011 for the next part of the journey. It was the hardest decision I have ever made. Not because I flatter myself that I am that important - I know I am very much a small sprat in a large ocean. I do however work with an amazing team of people whom I care very much about and I will miss.
I also have given a great deal of my focus to these publications for the past 40 months and I am very proud of them – in particular Rural Living. The thought of handing the responsibility and day to day decisions over to someone else was not something I considered lightly. Even just writing about it brings tears …
So why am I leaving? First and foremost – I want to spend some time with my children while they are still children. They have made enough ‘sacrifices’ to my dream – it’s time to spend some time on them.
And the dream itself? Well as proud of these publications as I am and as much as I love these people, I want something…more. Something different. I’m not really sure what that is yet but at the back of my mind I find myself wondering if perhaps the writer Jeff saw glimpses off might not be in there somewhere. I think I would like to find out.
Like most freelance writers I will do some PR and media work, some copywriting and webwriting. I’ll blog. I’ll work on my novel and a book about my Dad.
Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up some good stories along the way and get them into print. I’m happy to say I will be doing some freelance work for BtoB and Rural Living – and if it will be odd to not be calling the shots I’m glad I’m not slamming the door entirely.
December 17 seems to be looming very large at the moment and I’m eying it with equal parts trepidation and excitement. Trepidation because I’m not looking forward to clearing out my office, handing back my keys and saying goodbye. Excitement because this stage has been such an incredible and exhilirating roller coaster ride, what on earth will be in store next?
I’m sure we’ll find out a little further on down the road.