Why I have to quit my job and follow my art – Anna Spargo-Ryan

Why I have to quit my job and follow my art

Why I have to quit my job and follow my art

This afternoon, a clever lady linked me to something I can’t believe I hadn’t seen before. You might have already seen it, but just in case, it is this:

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.

Mixed tenses aside, I was rather moved by it. I remembered being a little girl and telling my dad with absolute conviction that the only thing I wanted to be in my life was a writer. I said that to him as a crap writer, as evidenced by the following excerpt (by Anna Spargo-Ryan, aged 4):

there are beetools [sic] and som [sic] bees they are in the garden i am there with my dad

But I wasn’t just crap at writing. I was in love with writing. I thought I could probably do writing for every minute of every day.

And for a long while, I did do writing for all my waking moments. The first book I remember penning was about a dolphin, and I can’t remember anything about it but I cut it into the shape of a dolphin and wrote “DOLPHIN” on it in big, curly letters. And underneath it I wrote “by Anna Spargo-Ryan”, and that wasn’t just an achievement because learning that mess of a surname as a six-year-old nearly killed me, but because the great swell of accomplishment and adrenalin I felt when I penned that byline made my little self weak at the knees. I wanted to write more and more things and then put “by Anna Spargo-Ryan” on them. I started to break my stories out into chapters and write “by Anna Spargo-Ryan” underneath every chapter heading.

by Anna Spargo-Ryan

by Anna Spargo-Ryan

It became an addiction. I wrote about everything. I drew pictures of the people I created with heart-shaped heads and massively disproportionate eyelashes. One day I acquired a lined notebook with a black, leather cover and wrote a story that upon reflection must have been close to 50,000 words, about a magical door and it was hardly plagiarised at all but sorry anyway C.S. Lewis. When I was eight, dad gave me his old black and white laptop and I wrote a story about a horse that had broken its leg in the back paddock. I wrote it while I sat at the edge of Encounter Bay with its twisted rock faces and watched the waves roll in and I’m sure I looked quite serious. I wrote it instead of playing in the water with my brother or finding crabs with my dad or shopping with my mum. When I was eight, I was a writer.

As a teenager, I wrote other things. This is an actual excerpt from a blog I had when I was seventeen.

He won’t ever know how much he’s hurt me. He just doesn’t have the capacity to think about how what he does will effect someone else before he does it. EVER. And then he lies about it to my face. I don’t know why I keep caring about him and forgiving him, but I do, perhaps in some vain hope that he’ll want me back one day. I mean, he won’t, of course, but I can still hope.. right? Hope. A funny word that means “think that things are going to happen, even though you know they aren’t, so that you won’t throw yourself off a building”.

Let’s never tell anyone about this.

And then I stopped. I became an adult and there are certain expectations of an adult, like not drinking milk from the carton and taking care of the children you had out of wedlock. For years my greatest pleasure came from small pieces of hilarity that I squeezed into government emails in my government jobs. I didn’t feel like a writer. I forgot that I had ever wanted to be a writer. I convinced myself that I had always wanted to be a web developer.

“I have always wanted to be a web developer!” I said to people, even though I had only had access to the internet for six years. “Since I was a little girl!” I built websites and wrote “by Anna Spargo-Ryan” at the top of them.

by Anna Spargo-Ryan

by Anna Spargo-Ryan

But last year, I had to write a newsletter for a shitty job that I hated. And when I sent it, people really loved it. They sent it to their friends and their friends called me to tell me how much they loved it.

“You are such a good writer!” they said, and I thought about the beetools and som bees from all those years ago and I got out my pen and my notebook. And I started writing again. And I remembered that the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer. So here I go.

by Anna Spargo-Ryan

  • Bernadette Jiwa

    June 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm Reply

    And you are (a writer I mean).
    Don’t forget it.

  • Krissy

    June 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm Reply

    You are a wonderful storyteller Anna. Seriously.
    And you had a blog when you were a teenager? That makes me feel so very, very old.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 7, 2012 at 9:28 pm Reply

      Oh Krissy stop it! It was the late 90s! It makes me feel old too.

      And thank you very much :) x

  • Happylan

    June 7, 2012 at 9:36 pm Reply

    And what a writer! I only discovered your blog recently and honestly you have such talent I am sure that it won’t be long before you (and all of us) are seeing ‘by Anna Spargo-Ryan’ everywhere.

  • Cassy Small

    June 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm Reply

    This sounds just like me! I wrote as a teenager and poured my heart out about boys who’d broken it. Years of blah blah blah followed and now I’ve found myself working in PR and have rediscovered how much I enjoy writing.
    I recently found my old teenage journal and have pledge to post an entry from it a week on my blog. The writing is good, but it’s bloody tragic stuff!! So I’m rethinking that one now!
    I’ve just subscribed to your blog, so look forward to reading more!

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm Reply

      Ooh, I must go and read it! I honestly find my teenage blog really sad. It’s poorly written, but the girl writing it was just a total mess.

  • Deb @ Bright and Precious

    June 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm Reply

    Yes. You are totally a writer. Never forget it. Write forever please. PS I’ve sat at the edge of Encounter Bay and written too. Sentimental place for me.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm Reply

      Really Deb?! We used to go there nearly every weekend when I was a little girl. My dad ran a lot of training courses at the Whalers’ Inn.

      • Deb @ Bright and Precious

        June 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm Reply

        My dad is originally from Victor Harbor. We regularly visit my grandma and relatives there. I associate VH with glorious summers and the smell of seaweed. It’s probably the closest ‘place’ that I feel a sense of home with even though I’ve never lived there.

  • Kelly Exeter

    June 8, 2012 at 9:56 am Reply

    This is scarily synchronous with my own story. Scarily!!

    And funny story – about a year ago I found a picture book (written by me, illustrated by my brother) that we did when we were kids. It was actually really good and I thought to myself ‘surely we didn’t come up with that ourselves – we must have plagiarised it.’

    • Kelly Exeter

      June 8, 2012 at 9:57 am Reply

      PS How ace is that Neil Gaiman speech!

      • Anna Spargo-Ryan

        June 8, 2012 at 10:14 am Reply

        Isn’t it? I’m going to watch it again.

        I’m beginning to think you and I are just two halves of one anxious writer web designer ;)

  • Evelyn

    June 8, 2012 at 11:49 am Reply

    So brilliantly put! You are most definitely a writer, and one I always look forward to reading. Seriously, I’d read the labels on shampoo if they were written by you (going too far? Just a bit?).

    This sounds like my own story too in many ways. I always wrote as a kid. My first book was about a boy who finds a diary and reads it till the end only to discover the heroine has run away. Of course, now only he knows where to find her so he saves the day!

    But like you, I never thought of being a writer as a ‘real’ job. So I went out and got myself a really good ‘back up job’, you know, just in case. And now I’m stuck between my day job (as you know, being a doctor), and my heart-fluttering passion.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm Reply

      Evelyn, you really challenge my inability to take compliments! Everything you say is so lovely.

      Mostly I just think we’re so lucky to HAVE heart-fluttering passion for something. How many people really get that?

Post a Reply to Anna Spargo-Ryan Cancel Reply