pr-textbook“You’re the writer. Spin it.”

I didn’t appreciate it then, but those words, spoken by a sales guy with a swagger, a bespoke suit, and a Porsche, marked a defining moment in my life.

Although I’d dabbled in fiction, I wasn’t writing it seriously. Instead, my days were filled with crafting sales, marking and PR copy. Or speeches where I told stories that weren’t mine.

But that day, when I had to write copy for a product that was releasing without a key feature, something important changed.

I realized I didn’t want to be forever spinning a corporate line.

So slowly, and alongside my day job, I started to focus on writing for me. At first it was a hobby. Then it became a second (albeit unpaid) job. And now, many years later, it’s a career.

These days, I don’t think about my life in the corporate world very often. However, when I was in England last month, I sorted through boxes of material I’d kept from various day jobs and freelance work.

It was painful. Those boxes held unhappy memories, and tangible reminders of how each choice I’d made had taken me further from who I was, what mattered most to me, and where I wanted to be.

Then I found a framed photo. Taken on my last day job trip to Asia in November 2014, it was a memento of a conference I’d spoken at.

But who was that woman in the smart suit with the lifeless eyes and flat-ironed hair? She was, and wasn’t, me.

As I looked at her, I felt sick, but there was also an unexpected sense of relief. Six months later, a corporate reorganization propelled me into a leap of faith. One that helped me let go of the path I was on to rediscover who I was, and how I defined success.

I didn’t want English Rose’s dominant memory of me to be one of a harried woman who whisked in and out of her life with a suitcase.

And I wanted a life that although not richer monetarily, was richer in what I value. Family, friends, community and my writing.

recycling-binAlthough I regret not focusing on fiction earlier, as I sorted papers into piles for shredding, recycling and (rarely) to keep, I recognized an important truth. Without so many years in those workplace jungles, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

That experience gave me a ringside seat to a gamut of human behaviours that influence the characters I create.

I saw good people who tried to do right, but who were often broken by the insidious corporate machine.  

There were weak people who sacrificed others for their own advancement.

And there were charming wolves with big egos and dubious morals, who lived by the mantra of winner takes all.

I don’t know what happened to the sales guy with the swagger, the bespoke suit and the Porsche. However, I’m grateful to him. His throwaway comment set me on a path that led to where I am now; where I’m meant to be. cottage-at-firefly-lake-cover

My heroes drive pickups, not Porsches. They’re more comfortable in jeans than suits. They never swagger. And they have a moral integrity beyond measure, and are the kind of men a heroine can count on.

As for that photo of me in Asia? I tucked it into the “keeper” box. If I ever lose sight of where I’m going, it’s a stark reminder of who, and what, I don’t want to be.


  1. Heidi

    “To thy own self be true”.

    Such simple words, but so profound. I’m so glad that you’ve found happiness in being true to who you are!

    • Jen Gilroy

      I have and thank you, Heidi. My mom used to quote that proverb and it’s apt for this time in my life.

  2. Jennifer Wilck

    Love this. There’s a peacefulness that comes when you know exactly who you are and where you want to be.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks so much, Jennifer. You’re absolutely right. That peacefulness is key and such a blessing.

  3. Jennifer Brodie

    Jen, I’ve only ever known you after the corporate world propelled you into a leap of faith, so I’ve never known your lifeless eyes. And I can’t imagine you harried. I’ve only ever known your sparkling eyes, focused outward, on those around you. I believe you could stop time, for English Rose. You emit a sense of peace. And purpose. You’ve found the essence of who you are – a strong, loving, creative woman who knows what she wants in life – less swagger, more action.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Your comment touched my heart, Jennifer, and also made me smile. I’m glad you’ve got to know the ‘real’ me.

  4. Sue Bavin

    Oh, Jen, how true your words are. Some many people get caught up in a life that isn’t right for them, but they have to stick with it for all kinds of reasons. You are so fortunate to have been able to break free from your former life and embark upon the writing career you have dreamed of. You are also now able to live your working life at home, close to English Rose. I am so pleased that things have turned out well for you. xxx

    • Jen Gilroy

      I’m glad you connected with my post, Sue, and thanks for your kind words. Breaking free of a life that didn’t fit was hard, and I had some wobbly moments. However, those struggles resulted in a life I’m now so grateful to have.

  5. @emsie1979

    RT @SusannaBavin: Inspiration for writers. @JenGilroy1 tells how she gave up old life to be full-time author. #writ…


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