Many years ago, I had a careers chat at school. I was almost mute with fear as I sat down in front of a careers advisor. I was a shy child and always a bit wary (read: terrified) of adults, especially those in authority.
The careers advisor looked like she'd rather be anywhere but sitting in a school talking to a bunch of 13-year-olds about the future (with adult hindsight, I can see her career didn't turn out quite how she planned - irony anyone?). I had no idea what to say to her about my plans for the future because beyond a love of reading and television, I was pretty much clueless about what I wanted to 'be' when I grew up.
I'd love to say she coaxed out of me what would eventually be my true calling - instead she just looked at me until I mumbled something about wanting to be a librarian (because of the books) or to 'help people'.
I vividly remember her face as she barely stopped herself rolling her eyes at that - she'd obviously heard it all before, several times, and it's likely very few of those who uttered those words actually did go on to 'help people'.
So, I left her company still as clueless as I was when I went in about what I wanted to do. It wasn't until I discovered "grown-up" magazines about a year later that I decided this was the job for me. I wasn't sure what job exactly, but I wanted to work on magazines - not become a solicitor as my parents hoped I would. It never occurred to me that the stories I'd been writing every evening in my exercise books and passing around every morning to my convent classmates could - or indeed would - become a proper career. I knew that Jayne Fisher, who had written and illustrated the Ladybird book series called The Garden Gang was about the same age as me, so she was an inspiration and encouragement for me to keep writing my tales. But it was inconceivable that anyone beyond those who knew me would want to read my stories.
Fast forward a few years, I've finished university, I've finished my masters degree (in journalism), I'm working in magazines while still writing my stories in the evenings.
Why? Why did I continue to put pen to paper and finger to keyboard even though I had no hope of getting published? Because I had to, is the short answer. And that answer is true today - even after being published. I can't not write; I can't not create characters and situations and stories - even if no one is going to read them.
Before The Cupid Effect was accepted for publication, I was having a crisis of confidence about the fact that no one seemed to want to make my stuff into a proper book. I said to my friend, Janet (who played Jess in The Cupid Effect) that I was probably going to give it all up. And she reminded me that I couldn't do that because, 'It doesn't work like that, does it? You, Koomson, don't really have a choice, do you? You write because you have to.' And that's the crux of it. I write because I love to, and I write because I have to. It's a compulsion and a passion to tell a story with all my heart and all my abilities. Writing is a huge, huge part of my life and who I am. Which is why it is so rewarding to hear from readers who have loved my books. And from readers who have been deeply touched by my books. And readers who have changed their lives because of my books. And readers who have been able to make sense of something that has happened to them or what they are feeling because of my books. It's the icing on the cake of something I love deeply.
Writing is heaven (and often hell) for me, but from the reactions I receive from readers, I have, it seems, unintentionally done what I said to the careers' advisor what I wanted to do: I have helped people.
So, that's why I write. It's probably not the reason other people write. But for me, I have the best career in the world because I get to help people, I get to tell stories and I get to go to bed at night knowing that every day, I do something that I love.
Dorothy Koomson is the author of seven novels including The Woman He Loved Before (£7.99, Sphere)Suggest a correction