Public servant to crime writer: How Nina Campbell dared to dream | HerCanberra

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Public servant to crime writer: How Nina Campbell dared to dream

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Think there’s one career track for everyone? Think again. Author Nina D. Campbell shares her journey ahead of the launch of her new thriller, Daughters of Eve.

I was in my mid-forties when I first reached out to a career counsellor. Unsatisfied with my job and feeling generally restless I was hoping a career change might bring the sparkle back to my life.

“If you could do anything, what would it be?” she asked.

I took a deep breath and shifted uncomfortably on the chair.

“I’d really like to be a writer,” I said. “An author.” I clarified. I’d been writing short stories for years and had just finished my first full-length novel.

That vanilla ice-cream smile that so many counsellors sport stretched into a smirk. Then she laughed.

“Yes, well. That’s a bit Pollyanna, don’t you think? It’s not a serious career choice for someone at your stage of life.”

My stage of life. That would be mid-life. And apparently dreams were off the table now.

I’d been lucky. From a few false starts I had built an enviable career, bought a house and had money for overseas holidays if I wanted them. But those things weren’t filling the aching void in my soul the way I thought they would.

I felt restless and unsatisfied and that made me feel guilty. How could I have so much and still feel so empty?

“Have you spoken to your doctor about perimenopause?” the counsellor asked.

Why is midlife for men characterized by a sudden desire for fast cars, motorbikes and new relationships, while women are nudged to seek medical assistance to help them over the midlife hurdle.

I did see the doctor in the end and not just for advice about perimenopause. An old injury flared up and my attempt to work through it led to complications that left me unable to sit at a desk or type for a significant period.

Stepping back from the daily grind of going into work I had time to think and the pain management psychologist I was sent to helped me reflect on some basic truths.

This life we have is precious and finite. What we do with it, that’s up to us.

The choices we make are important. I had always wanted to be a writer but I had put that dream on the backburner for too many years.

When I spoke to my partner about wanting to work part-time, he was far more supportive than I’d expected. He suggested we sell our dream house and downsize to reduce our mortgage to make it possible. When the opportunity came up for me to take a package and write full-time, again he supported the idea.

And I’m not a unicorn. I have friends who have been inspired to follow me out of the mainstream workforce. Women who’ve gone back to their love of music or found new loves, like riding motorbikes and writing. Women who’ve started new business ventures or who’ve sold their houses to travel Australia as house and pet sitters.

Women of my generation were mostly raised with a strong sense of responsibility to others, to our children, our parents and our partners. Too often we look at life through the lens of what we can do for others, not what we want to do for ourselves.

I think back to that career counsellor chuckling at my desire to follow my dream. I wonder how many other dreams she squashed inadvertently, thinking her job was to keep us gainfully employed and safe.

My partner and I sacrificed a sizable income when I left the workforce, but we have never been happier. My debut novel being published by Allen and Unwin at the end of this month, and I am living my dream.

But publication isn’t the point. The dream for me was and always will be writing. It’s getting up each day, having put myself at the centre of my own story, and wondering where the words will take me today.

You don’t have to leave your job. For years I squeezed writing around my work and my life and many writers do.  But don’t let anyone stand between you and your dreams—especially yourself.

You’ve got one life. Live it to the full!

Purchase Daughters of Eve and find out more about Nina at 


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