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This is a guest post from Carla Krueger from carlakrueger.com

I was a rebel as a youngster – someone who took risks, truly explored places and had lots of (legal) fun most adults frowned at. The motivation to be creative and do exciting things continued into my teenage years and onto University, where I was popular for being ‘my own person’.

But then, as I moved further into my twenties, a combination of factors began to lessen my individuality. It happened slowly, over time, so that I didn’t really notice. I began to feel less happy, less motivated, less content – and I didn’t like it, so I decided to figure out why and try to put it right.

A Trip Down The Mediocre Path

carla kreuger

What were the factors that made me less adventurous, opinionated and creative?

After a long hard think (about two years solid!), I narrowed it down to four fundamental reasons:

  1. Lack of enthusiasm for my ‘proper’ job. I had a regular salary that paid the bills, but hardly any creative output. I had a bunch of meaningless targets to meet and a manager who was less qualified than any of the team they ‘led’.
  2. Dissatisfaction with other people’s ideas about where my life was supposed to go – like my mother with her “nice house, mortgage and car” dream, or my mother-in-law, who saw me as a grandchild-production-machine (and wasn’t afraid to keep saying so…!)
  3. A very stressful, long-term problem with a close relative characterised by manipulation, control and high expectations of love and kindness without much being reciprocated.
  4. A general sense of loss and confusion within – a sense that, even though I liked some elements of what I was and what I did – I was not really myself anymore. I was not PROUD of who I’d become.

To cut a long story short, I wanted to understand what was going on and possibly re-learn how to be that creative person again – and here’s how I did it.

Three Steps To Change

First and most importantly, I accepted there was a problem. It sounds like something a health professional might say to an addict, but it’s essential.

I was NOT happy with my job. I did NOT care about money in the same way many of my co-workers did. I was NOT ok to let the imbalance in my family relationship continue.I did NOT agree that “women’s only desire in life should be to become a mother,” and I did NOT want to live a lie, plugging away at things I didn’t care about, pretending to everyone that I was happy to let my true personality hide.

Next, I got professional advice. I visited both a relationship counselor, to ask about my family problem and a careers advisor, to find out how easy or difficult the kind of changes I planned to make would be. Sometimes it’s unsettling to talk to a stranger about your life in that detail, but I can almost guarantee its power as a tool of self-improvement.

Even when I was told it would be hard to solve all my issues (almost impossible for some), I surprised myself with my own reaction – I said, “I don’t care how hard it is – I’m determined to do it.” I had, in that instant, got back my motivation to really succeed in life, and not just to be perceived as succeeding by people who are too scared to break a few rules.

Last but not least, the final step in the process is this: THERE IS NO FINAL STEP! When you’re finally where you want to be, fighting hard for what you believe, doing what you love, you just keep doing it, over and over, wherever you are, in whatever company – and you never give up.

When offered a promotion at the job I didn’t care about, I declined, with a polite, but genuine reason. I said, “I don’t want to be a fake anymore. I’m not built to work in a business like this – and the extra money doesn’t make it anymore palatable to me. I’ve got new plans …” When asked by friends and family why I’d “looked the work gift-horse in the mouth,” I told them the truth.

They were surprised by my choices and started to accuse me of recklessness, but this time I didn’t let it affect me. I was strong. I let them have their concerns. I even let them judge or pity me. When I told them what I wanted to do instead, they went crazy! “Have you lost your mind?” “That’s such a tough career path!” “You must be mad to waste your time on something that pays so poorly.”

I used to hate judgement and disapproval more than anything – the fear of being judged was one of the reasons I started doing things people agreed with in the first place, but I lost my individuality by being scared of what people thought. Now, I simply accept not everyone can think like me – and then I calmly remind myself – and them – that it’s a good thing.

So, What Did I Ditch My ‘Real’ Job To Do?

For many years, I had secretly written fiction as a hobby – often drawing from my life experiences, both good and bad. One day, on a whim, I showed one of my stories to someone I trusted and they looked at me with an expression I can only describe as amazement. Thankfully for me, it wasn’t amazement at how shitty my idea was.

It was respect.

That moment changed my life for ever. I’m now a full-time author, creating the work I love with no regrets.

In case you’re interested, I found that to go from a salaried, standard job to a successful career as a self-employed writer I needed:

  1. An unstoppable desire and determination to fight for what I wanted;
  2. Flowing ideas that seem to never cease and plenty of time to implement them;
  3. A style of communication that’s recognizably mine and doesn’t alienate my readers;
  4. Flawless grammar and presentation skills, even if I ditch them sometimes in the name of fun;
  5. A supportive partner who accepted that I needed help both emotionally and financially in the early stages;
  6. Good social and networking skills, online and in the real world;
  7. A strong passion for the themes that run through my work; and
  8. A pair of army-grade slippers and a tea mug with an unbreakable handle.

Changing my life – and what wasn’t right about it – was not something I wanted to do overnight. I’m not the sort of person to run away to New Zealand and live in a tent or dye my hair red or do anything else on a crazy whim. Those snap decisions don’t usually work anyway, in my opinion. I knew if my situation was going to change for the better, on a long-term basis, it had to be thought about and planned properly.

And then, when I was ready, I simply went for it.

 

About Carla

Carla H. Krueger is a psychological thriller and dark comedy writer based in the UK. She splits her time between Manchester, her vibrant home city, and London. She can be found via the social webs on Twitter and Goodreads.

Her home is a writing retreat, nestled in the little-known countryside between Manchester city centre and neighbouring Sheffield, but always the explorer, and a lover of people, Carla likes to travel as far and wide as possible when time and money permits, to keep her creative spark alight.

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