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Reinventing Yourself

Sally Brownbill is coming to Port Fairy on Saturday to be part of a conversation about reinventing yourself, and living the creative life you've always dreamed of living. She's written a book called Leap Into Your Creative Life. It's had me thinking a lot about the meandering path and reinvention within my own life.

Way back when I was a young person just starting out, I made some excruciatingly bad decisions which meant I worked in a whole lot of godawful jobs just to keep afloat. It's fair to say I was miserable and bored and hated every minute of every day at that stage. But I didn't seem to have the motivation or sticking power to do anything else. I was letting myself - and everyone who believed in me - down.

Somewhere in the early 90s, a chance sighting of an ad in a newspaper led me to enrol in a short course in graphic design - I think it was only six weeks or so. I could manage that - and did. Then once I had that certificate I was able to get a job in a publishing house. I went from doing deathly dull and demeaning admin work to doing page layout for books! And it was such a simple and manageable tweak. An easy reinvention. (Ideally, though, I'd be the one writing the books. This is a reinvention that still lies ahead...)

This change gave me a self-confidence boost, and I was eventually able to get myself into university as a mature-aged student and to actually complete a Bachelor of Arts (I know), where my focus was on literature, and yes, criminology. I even left with a solid job opportunity in corrections. (Reinvention.) Corrections. Nothing creative about that. Well, maybe those in the system could be a little creative, but the work itself - not so much. At this point, now armed with a properly employable set of skills, I decided that now was the time to give my dream of a "little bookshop in the country" a go. Another reinvention - and one that I couldn't have made without the support of the people who believed in me (with special thanks to my parents and my husband).

I've now been at it - the bookshop in the country - for 20 years this November. It's by far the longest job I've ever had. It's always the people around you that make or break a job, I've found, and running a bookshop/gallery brings the most wonderful, thoughtful and creative people into our lives. In the same way I find it hard to call Blarney Books & Art a "shop", I find what I do hard to call a "job". It's become so much more than the quiet little bookshop I thought it was going to be. I find myself to be more than a bookseller - I'm also an event organiser, a festival director (Port Fairy Literary Weekend), a board member (South West Makers/Glyph Gallery), a gallerist, music venue operator, and a number of other things. I've grown and reinvented myself numerous times through my bookshop. (NB: At the time of starting my bookshop, I also become a parent, and if that isn't the mother of all reinventions, I don't know what is.)

And I think I still have time and (some) energy for yet more reinvention.

I've talked to a lot of people across my desk about running a creative business, as it seems that this is what I do. People look at Blarney Books & Art and ask if I came from a design background, an arts field, if I was a business owner before, or even whether I'd I worked in bookshops before. And the answer to each and every one of these questions is no. What I did do previously was read. I was definitely a bookworm from earliest memory. Which meant that across my lifetime I've racked up some serious hours in bookshops and libraries across the country, and occasionally overseas.

In my conversations with people about personal or professional reinvention, I find that many people are lacking the confidence to try something different or something a little more colourful. But one step after another. You don't have to, and often can't, make all the changes in one go. You can start with a small tweak though.

Writer and thinker Rebecca Solnit said of change: "You want tomorrow to be different than today, and it may seem the same, or worse, but next year will be different than this one, because those tiny increments added up. The tree today looks a lot like the tree yesterday, and so does the baby. A lot of change is undramatic growth ... ."

Really looking forward to this conversation with Sally on Saturday. You can register via our events page. Sally's website is here. And if you have stories of reinvention, I'd love to hear them...

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