Both Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill said something along the lines of ‘to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail’. Just as well I didn’t have a career in politics in my sights because I’ve managed very well without a game plan for almost 50 years. For this article, I’m going to document a series of fortunate (and unplanned) events that brought me to where I am today and the very roundabout but interesting route from where I started.
Reading Time in Minutes
- I read somewhere once that if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, ask yourself what you wanted to be when you were a child. For me, it was always a writer.
- I actively avoided pursuing this career and instead ended up in tech using my storytelling skills. I dabbled in the downtime but never gave myself enough time.
- A bursary to an International Summer School in 2019 proved to be transformative both in terms of the people I met and the outcomes of that collaboration.
- In 2021, I said enough is enough and took a gap year to focus on my craft and picked up a new one on the way. So much happened in that gap year that if today you were to ask me ‘what do you do?’ I’d answer, I’m a writer. I might mutter the words but I wouldn’t be lying.
About Joy Redmond
I’m a writer and a printmaker with a greeting card side hustle. Before that, I was a marketer, an academic, a researcher, a web/ux designer, and more besides.
Contacting Joy Redmond
By Joy Redmond
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always written, plays in school, essays that were acted out in class, and articles for local magazines. Despite this leaning, I knew I didn’t want to study English or do an Arts degree because I didn’t like the analysis of writing – the theme of the poem, the motivations of the villain etc. I was Mathsy too and did nearly all Sciences for the Leaving Cert but I didn’t have a particular calling for that life either so I studied Marketing for some reason or other.
In college, I never got excited about consumer marketing or the big brands, I was drawn to the storytelling side and of course, marketing research fed my Quants brain so when I was offered a postgrad scholarship to do a Masters by research (thesis only), I jumped at the chance. My brief was to analyse the internationalisation strategies of the then-nascent indigenous Irish software industry (mid-90s). In early 1996, I came across this text-heavy ‘thing’ called the world wide web. Talk about light bulb moment, I packed up my desk and joined one of Ireland’s first web design agencies and have stayed in the industry since but have changed careers several times within it.
Ever before I had kids, I liked to mix and match my work in preference to the full-time 9-5 with just one patron. So while I was a postgrad, I also lectured part-time, was a barmaid, and did regular freelance research. I learned later that Charles Handy coined this a ‘portfolio career’ which makes me pretty unemployable on paper if I ever wanted a full-time job again but in fact suits me very well in having a skillset that most companies don’t require full time so it’s win-win for everyone. I also had the freedom to be there for my sons when they needed me, particularly in the early days of my son’s autism diagnosis which involved a daily 130km roundtrip to a specialised pre-school and several weekly therapies which would never have been possible within the confines of 9-5 work.
Always during this time, I was still plugging away at the writing but I never gave myself the time instead saying yes to another gig. Then a few years ago as my sons were getting to the age when they want to be neglected, I decided it was time for me and gave myself more space and wrote a play that was shortlisted for a National award and excerpts from which made its way onto the stage and radio. It was a start. Around the same time, I signed up for an Art Writing course in our local art college and a spin-out from that was I built an online art writing journal.
Summer 2019: I was awarded a bursary for the John Hewitt International Summer School on the strength of that art writing journal. This week proved transformative because it was there I met 3 other writers (Ruth, Liz, and Niall) with whom I’ve remained in daily contact since via WhatsApp. I also got the idea for a book and made extensive notes during the week.
Spring 2020: I’m out walking my dog thinking all about how our lives are changing overnight with this pandemic lark and I have this epiphany thinking we need to record this moment in time. I moot this on our WhatsApp group and we decided to start an online forum to publish any writing in response to the Covid_19 pandemic. We hoped to document the Irish experience but were blown away by the submissions from all over the world. The entire Pendemic.ie collection will be preserved in UCD Special Collections for future generations to visit. Pendemic was featured on RTE Radio One’s Arena, BBC Radio Ulster’s The Ticket and contributors were invited to read their work on RTÉ’s Poetry Programme Special: Poems in a Pandemic. Pendemic also received national and local press coverage and received funding from the Arts Council.
Spring 2021: I finally say enough is enough. My eldest is about to finish college, it really is time for me so I jump on the great resignation bandwagon and decided to take a gap year. I finally get around to getting an adult diagnosis of autism after recognising every single trait in all the reading I’d done for the previous ten years. I wonder how I will process this not-quite-new information so my researcher brain kicks in and I design a survey and answer my open-ended questions over the course of a few months.
Autumn 2021: After chilling out for the summer, I enroll in a part-time printmaking course again in our local Art College thinking maybe I’ll get a few ideas for my greeting card side hustle @trustwordie, my poor neglected child. I was terrible at art in school but fancy my chances using Photoshop and text and whatnot until I discover this technique called ‘Collagraph’ and I’m hooked. I find myself making life-size prints, pushing the physical boundaries of the college press, and end up with some work I’m actually quite proud of which is weird for someone who never graduated beyond stickmen drawings. The print below entitled ‘Polyester makes me panic’ is the first of a series of prints I hope to develop based on the themes that emerged when I postcoded my own survey findings. During this time I apply for the pilot Basic Income for Artists Scheme. I apply for mixed media because I’ve become quite obsessed with printmaking and don’t want to restrict myself to non-visual storytelling.
Summer 2022: I give myself time to work on the 2019 book helped enormously by the encouragement of a tutor giving a course as part of a community arts festival.
September 2022: I’m one of the lucky 2,000 people to receive funding for the next three years to focus on my craft. Only 113 writers were successful so I’m presuming my mixed media application brought me over the line. I won’t question it anyway. A few weeks later the Arts Council award me funding to continue my work on collagraphs based on my personal research.
Today: I’m writing the last chapter of my book which will be finished this week. It’s the first draft so I’ll let it sit for a few months. I’ll turn off the laptop and take up the inks, the rags, the wood glue, the French polish, and all that messiness that collagraphs entail. It’s time to work with the hands. Over the last few months, I’ve met some new people, and eventually the question ‘what do you do?’ comes up and I hesitate and say I’m a writer and a printmaker but I’m getting more comfortable saying it the more I do. My teenage self wouldn’t have hesitated. I guess it’s only taken me 49 years to come full circle and it has been one long, interesting, and very unplanned journey.