How I became a writer
Ah… the art of writing. I can’t resist its pull.
That stab of envy whenever I saw someone’s name being accompanied by the term ‘author’ or ‘writer’ was a vague wake-up call. Envy doesn’t reflect well on me, I admit, but it rather disturbed me at the time. Because obviously I wasn’t a writer. I was a public prosecutor.
How did I go from that to trying my hand at writing? As choices go, that particular one wouldn’t make much sense.
Allow me to take you back in time, to 2008. My life appeared perfect: a good, meaningful job as a prosecutor, great kids and a loving partner. I worked around the house and the garden, arranged everything to do with school and clubs, went running a few times a week, regularly met with family and friends and I made sure to schedule time and attention for my elderly parents. In short, I was unmistakably part of the sandwich generation; stuck between being responsible and caring for teens growing up on the one hand and ailing, elderly parents on the other hand.
Despite my busy life, I couldn’t help but think something was missing. I just didn’t know what. That vague feeling only grew stronger over the years and ended up just being plain unpleasant. This whole process lasted for years.
Until the day I read an amazing column in the newspaper. I was touched, and then it hit me: This is exactly what I want to do! I felt like I had solved the puzzle. I had found its missing piece and I knew where to put it. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have taken years for me to figure it out. I had always loved language and books since childhood. I used books for all my favourite pass-times. Whereas other kids might play something like cops and robbers, I played librarian; collecting not only my own books, but those of my parents, too. I would then cut up paper into square cards and scribble down the title, author and ‘return date’. To actually be able to place the cards inside the book I crafted a small paper slot inside each book cover, all neatly taped up. Painstaking, laborious work. I wrote stories, too. One of them (“Het Spookhuis [The Haunted House]”) actually made it into the school paper (this first ‘publication’ can be traced back via www.coolcolumns.com).
So when it finally dawned on me that I wanted to start writing columns, I faced another demon. I was scared. Hesitant to have other people read my works, afraid they would reject it. But curiosity eventually trumped that feeling, I was dying to know the opinion of others and so I, albeit tremblingly, sent some samples to family, friends and acquaintances. To my great relief, their reactions were positive and I was motivated to continue.
Sometime after, I happened upon a ‘Writing Columns’ course on the internet. All of my previous trepidations were off on holiday. I signed up immediately. That course was the highlight of my week. It taught me a lot, but I especially enjoyed the zeal of my teacher and the inspiring group of equally minded people from all walks of life. I soon noticed that writing left me feeling satisfied, and that at the same time it acted as an escape from all the misery I faced in the criminal cases I tried in my professional career.
The course bolstered my confidence enough to take a next step: the launch of my own blog. Lo and behold, www.coolcolumns.com arrived in late 2011. Until March 2017 I posted a sneak peek of my weekly blog on Wednesdays, with the full text of the new column being released on Fridays. The columns touch a range of subjects like my children, shopping trips, nostalgic fragments of the past, travels, the spiritual side of life and whatever else.
At www.cruisecraver.com, an infotainment site, I share my passion for cruising with those interested in it. I launched this website to take away all that prejudice surrounding this mode of travel. It doesn’t just list a great deal of info about the ins and outs of cruises, but you also get to see my photos of what the cruise ships and destinations look like.
Eventually I was keen on sharing my experiences as a public prosecutor in a personal way, so in the Spring of 2012 I proposed this to the highest chief of the Public Prosecution Service, Herman Bolhaar, President of the Board of Procurators General. He was excited about the idea from the get-go and gave me a thumbs up. From September 2012 until 1 January 2016 I wrote a weekly column about my job as public prosecutor in the Algemeen Dagblad, the second largest Dutch national newspaper. I decided to stop doing this on 1 January 2016 because I’ve turned sail and plotted a completely different course to involve writing, giving lectures and inspiring others in the broadest sense of the word.
In the meantime, I wrote two books and thus officially became a published author. My first being Fortunately, my first corpse is fresh, a personal account of my adventures as a female prosecutor (De Fontein, 2015). The second is entitled The year of the owl (Kosmos, 2016) and deals with my personal transformational journey after my father’s death.
Currently, The year of the owl has been translated into English in order to try and conquer foreign markets.
Photo: Suzanne Rensink