Don’t compare yourself to others. Social media is a great tool, but it can also be a curse because it’s so easy to look at other people who are seemingly more successful than you and feel like a fraud in comparison. But don’t forget you’re only seeing a tiny fraction of the bigger picture.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natasha Boydell.
Natasha Boydell is an author. Her debut novel The Missing Husband was an Amazon UK top 100 bestseller and her new psychological drama, The Woman Next Door, will be released in September 2021. She lives in London, England, with her husband, two daughters and two rescue cats.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in London, England. As a child my two passions were writing and animals, so I spent my days making up stories about rabbits and horses. From an early age I wanted to be an author, although I did go through a phase of telling people I wanted to become a horse and then a famous showjumper. When I realized that neither of these equine career paths were feasible, and without the confidence or self-discipline to try to make it as an author, I applied to study geography at university.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison
I discovered this quote last year when I’d just finished my first novel and had started working on my second. At this point I had no idea if anyone would ever publish or read my work. I was plagued with the usual fears and self-doubt that most authors can attest to and wondered if I was being silly to chase a pipe dream. But this quote made me realize that it’s important to block out the noise — the insecurities, the rejections from agents and publishers, the comparisons with other people, the fear that I don’t have enough Twitter followers — and just do my best to write a damn good book. The rest will follow.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
1/ Goal-driven. I can procrastinate until the cows come home but once I’ve set my mind to something, I have to see it through. I made a vow to write my first novel by my 40th birthday and once I’d made that promise, I wouldn’t let anything stand in my way, not even Covid pandemics and family demands.
2/ Self-belief. I have my share of fears and insecurities like everyone but fundamentally, deep down, I’ve always believed that if you want something hard enough then you must go for it. No one else is going to do it for you. You can, and should, build a support network but in the end it’s down to you.
3/ Realism. I love a daydream, I really do, but I went into writing fiction with my eyes wide open. I knew it was going to be a bumpy road. I knew I would get rejections. I knew it may not happen for me. And I know that my dream could still end at any moment. Being realistic has helped me to deal with the blows that come my way. That doesn’t mean that I don’t weep over a glass of wine when it happens though!
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
After I graduated from university, I trained and worked as a journalist at a regional newspaper and then went to work for a press agency, writing and selling celebrity and real-life stories to national and international newspapers and magazines. I loved the writing but not so much the job. The type of work I did was more about how much we could sell a story for, and I became disillusioned by it and decided I wanted a change.
I moved into the charity sector and worked in the communications / PR teams for several charities over the next decade. In 2019 I set up my own communications consultancy, working with clients in the charity, health, and education sectors.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I’ve dreamed of being a novelist all my life, but I never had the confidence or determination to really try. It’s always been there, lurking at the back of my mind, but I pushed it away time and time again, telling myself I was too busy, it wasn’t the right time, I wasn’t good enough etc. However, with my 40th birthday looming, I thought if not now, then when? So, I vowed to write a novel by the time I hit the big 4–0.
A year later my debut novel, a psychological suspense called The Missing Husband, became an Amazon UK top 100 bestseller and I signed a further two-book deal with my publisher. My second novel, The Woman Next Door, will be released in September and I’m currently working on my third. Starting a new adventure and career at 40 has been one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I think it’s natural for people who are approaching 40 to have a half-time pause, look at their life and consider what they’ve achieved so far. But for me I had an added factor. My mother was diagnosed with cancer just after her 40th birthday and sadly we lost her the following year. I was eleven years old at the time. My family’s experience taught me that life is both short and precious. I have no idea what my future holds but I know that whatever happens, my one big regret would be not trying to write a novel. It’s sentimental, I know, but as a child my teachers used to tell my mother that I would be an author when I grew up and I knew how proud she was to hear that. I really wanted to make it happen for us both.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Luckily, my career has enabled me to develop my writing and editing skills. But fiction is a whole other ballgame as it’s a completely different style of writing. Being used to writing 500- or 1,000-word articles, the thought of producing 85,000 words was terrifying. It really was a brand-new skillset for me.
To help me overcome this, I did two things. Firstly, I stopped looking at the bigger picture and focused on daily or weekly goals so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the project. As Desmond Tutu said, there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.
Secondly, I signed up to a short course aimed at people who are working on a writing project and want to prioritize it. A key part of it was reading each other’s work and providing feedback. I remember one course-mate telling me, “You’ve written 2,000 words when you could have written 20,000.” That’s when I learned to stop thinking like a journalist and start thinking like a fiction writer.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Things are going better than I could ever have expected. My debut novel was released in May this year, two months after my 40th birthday, and became an Amazon bestseller within two weeks. I have a further two-book deal with my publisher. Seeing my book featured on the websites of major booksellers around the world has been one of the most amazing and surreal experiences of my life.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It really has to be my husband Jon. Writing a novel is challenging enough but doing it during a global pandemic when you have children at home full-time because the schools are shut as well as your day job to do takes it to a whole new level. Weekdays were out of the question as I was either working or looking after / home-schooling our daughters. I wrote some evenings but usually I was too exhausted. So I wrote at weekends and Jon looked after the kids. He was so supportive of what I was doing, even when there was a very good chance that I was devoting hundreds of hours to something that might never actually see the light of day. He never made me feel like I was chasing an unrealistic dream.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
This summer I’m taking part in a book reading event with the writing school where I did my course. It feels so surreal to be going back to where it all began but as a published author hoping to inspire other writers to achieve their goals too. It feels like five minutes ago that I was a student, at the beginning of my novel writing journey, thinking of the mountain ahead of me that I had to climb. Now I’m on the other side staring at an equally large mountain — book number three!
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Absolutely! I thought, who the heck am I to think that I could write something that a/ a publisher would want to publish and b/ people would want to read? But I just kept my head down and ploughed on.
After I started submitting and was getting a steady stream of rejections, it was easy to give up on it all, but I’d come so far that I refused to fall at the final hurdle. I kept looking for other agents and publishers who might be interested in my work and I also started working on my second novel so that I had a plan B if no one wanted the first one. Luckily, I found a publisher who wanted both. But it’s a long and emotionally draining process and you must be prepared for that.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
Given that we were all at home for most of last year because of the pandemic, my family support system was the most important thing to me at the time. We had to create a routine that allowed us to squeeze all the things into our lives — our jobs, home-education, writing.
But as part of my writing course, which I managed to complete just before we went into the first lockdown, I was also paired with a writing buddy and that was a huge help as we set each other weekly goals and checked in every few days to see how we were doing. That really motivated me.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I was embarrassed to tell my family and friends that I was writing a novel. Firstly, because there was a chance I might not actually finish it and secondly because there was a very good chance I might not get a publishing deal. And I thought they’d judge me and think I was a joke to assume I could do it. But I made myself tell everyone, even though it was terrifying. My reasoning was that I’m a very proud person and once people knew about it, I knew I’d have to see it through to save face!
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Take one step at a time. Stop looking at the big, scary goal and fretting about it. Instead, make small goals and don’t look beyond that. For example, if you want to write a novel, aim to write 2,000–3,000 words a week. If you can, find a buddy or mentor who will hold you accountable.
- Write as often as you can. Writing regularly keeps the novel at the forefront of your mind and makes it easier to pick up where you left off. If you take long breaks, it’s harder to get back into it.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Social media is a great tool, but it can also be a curse because it’s so easy to look at other people who are seemingly more successful than you and feel like a fraud in comparison. But don’t forget you’re only seeing a tiny fraction of the bigger picture. These people have been on their own journey to get to where they are and it has most likely included self-doubt, rejection and disappointment too. Stick to your own lane and don’t be afraid to take a digital detox if you start obsessing over it or it’s getting too much for you.
- Accept rejection. It’s an inevitable part of life. Learn from it if you can, but if you can’t don’t worry about it. Just take it on the chin and move on. The world is diverse and that’s what makes it so great. If everyone loved you and your work, there would be something pretty scary about that.
- It’s never too late. Don’t think that if you haven’t done it by now that you never will. Our brains have a continuous capacity to learn. Whatever stage you are in life, if you have a dream then go for it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Reading is such a crucial and influencing factor in a child’s development, so I would love to inspire a movement where every child in the world could read and had access to a wide range of books.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
The author Marian Keyes because she’s my hero. Although my seven-year-old daughter would prefer it if I had breakfast with the children’s author Liz Pichon because she’s absolutely obsessed with her books.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can keep up to date with my books at https://www.natashaboydell.co.uk/
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!