When John Hughes closes a door…

There’s a line in Paul Murray’s high school epic Skippy Dies that, on first reading, is less a lightbulb moment and more like being hit over the head with a giant hammer of the blindingly obvious, and, on subsequent examination, resonates with such sadness, and such truth, that it bears reproduction in full…

‘Now, with every day that passes, another door seems to close, the one marked PROFESSIONAL STUNTMAN, or FIGHT EVIL ROBOT, until as the weeks go by and the doors – GET BITTEN BY SNAKE, SAVE WORLD FROM ASTEROID, DISMANTLE BOMB WITH SECONDS TO SPARE – keep closing, you begin to hear the sound as a good thing, and start closing some yourself, even ones that didn’t necessarily need to be closed.’ (from Skippy Dies by Paul Murray)

As I walk down Walcot Street in the March sunshine, The Shins on loud on my iPod, I am struck again by that notion of opportunities lost or squandered as I am stopped in my tracks by the sudden, but unshakeable conviction that what I really, really should have been, is a drummer in an indie band. Never mind that I have just typed up 2,000 pleasingly amusing words for the latest in a bestselling series. Never mind that I have the kind of job that means I can be walking into town at two on a Wednesday afternoon to indulge in tea and bitching with other writers. No, because what I really should be doing right now is hammering out a four-four (no idea if this is even a term, that is how absurd this proposal is) like some middle-aged Meg White. And then of course, in my usual panicky but overly organized and alphabetised way, I wonder what else I should have been. Hence this: my top five missed careers…

  1. DETECTIVE INSPECTOR Sort of like Morse, but with better clothes, and a love interest.
  2. DRUMMER (seeabove)
  3. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPION Admittedly attempted at the age of 40, but the arthritis, and general “not really goodenoughness” have put paid to that one.
  4. JOCKEY Alas my prospects as a female Frankie Dettori were curtailed by the sudden discovery aged fifteen of Wagon Wheels and John Hughes films, which leads me to…
  5. MOLLY RINGWALD Not so much a job as a lifestyle. But, despite a wardrobe of kooky vintage tat, and one ill-advised experiment with Toners and Shaders I have never quite pulled off the Pretty in Pink look.

Yet, somehow, I continue to believe there is time. That there are still some doors I have yet to close, or have slammed in my face. Pole vaulter maybe. Or Zooey Deschanel…

About Joanna Nadin

A former broadcast journalist and special adviser to the prime minister, since leaving politics I’ve written more than 80 books for children and adults, as well as speeches for politicians, and articles for newspapers and magazines like The Guardian, Red and The Amorist. I also lecture in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and hold a doctorate in young adult literature. I’m a winner of the Fantastic Book Award and the Surrey Book Award, and have been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Booktrust Best Book award and Queen of Teen among others, and twice nominated for the Carnegie Medal, for Everybody Hurts, and for Joe All Alone, which is now a BAFTA-winning and Emmy-nominated BBC TV series. I've also worked with Sir Chris Hoy on the Flying Fergus series and ghost-written Angry Birds under another name. I like London, New York, Essex, tea, cake, Marmite, mint imperials, prom dresses, pubs, that bit in the West Wing where Donna tells Josh she wouldn’t stop for a red light if he was in an accident, junk shops, crisps, Cornwall, St Custard’s, Portuguese custard tarts, political geeks, pin-up swimsuits, the Regency, high heels, horses, old songs, my Grandma’s fur coat, vinyl, liner notes, the smell of old books, the feel of a velveteen monkey, Guinness, quiffs, putting my hand in a bin of chicken feed, the 1950s, burlesque, automata, fiddles, flaneuring, gigs in fields on warm summer nights, Bath, the bath.
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4 Responses to When John Hughes closes a door…

  1. My girls and I love your books. I know when I get a pang of jealousy, it’s because someone else has something I want, lol…. and I so want to be a great writer like you. (I know… major ‘sucking-up), but it’s true. To your continued success 🙂 Sarah

  2. Joanna Nadin says:

    Thank you! And for the Twitter follows. And good luck! x

  3. aok666 says:

    I have a mad urge to learn the drums just to spite my mother, because she insists I have co-ordination difficulties (I don’t, it’s just lack of practise because I hate sports). I’ll probably have to settle for playing them on the game Rock Band when I visit my friend in the summer.

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