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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Macfarlane

The Accidental Artist: Self-Discovery and Creativity

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

By Leigh Macfarlane

The first time I went to University, I studied Interior Design. But, I dropped out. The next time I went to University, I studied Criminology. But, turned out I was pregnant. I dropped out. Then I was a stay-at-home mom taking correspondence courses just to keep my brain active. I obtained diplomas in Interior Design, Floral Design, Freelance Writing, and Dog Grooming.

When eventually I returned to University, my plan was to take any kind of two-year degree that would pay the bills.

The thing was, it turned out I was good at school. In my first post-secondary English class after having my children, my instructor announced to the class that for the first time in her teaching career she had awarded 100% on a mid-term exam. She was referring to me, and that mark changed the trajectory of my life. Instead of that quick, two-year path, I stayed in University for seven years. I finished with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature and a Master's of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing.

And... I graduated and dropped all things writing to become the leader of a band. It wasn't until that band broke up that I returned to writing.

For many years of my life, I really thought I didn't know myself very well. I seemed -- even to myself -- to be all over the map with my interests and pursuits. I envied those of you who know from day one who you wanted to be and what you wanted to do with your life.

Everything I pursued had one thing in common -- a thread of creativity -- but beyond that, calling my intersts eclectic was being polite. Then one day I took a personality test designed to project your career path, and every career I'd ever considered -- from being a lawyer to a teacher to a writer -- appeared on the list of suggestions they summarized. I'd known who I was all along! My path was just a little bit more complex, or maybe flexible, or circuitous, than the life journey some people walk.

One of the reasons the band I lead broke up was the addiction of a member. When he 'fell off the wagon' it created all kinds of complications within our little group which the band did not survive. I came away from the experience wanting to write about it, but I didn't want to embarrass anyone, so I turned to fiction. With fiction, I could explore the issues while still keeping the details anonymous enough that I could be comfortable. That was 2018.

After writing that first book, I realized there were more topics I would like to write about. That's the thing about taking a circular route to becoming who you are -- you have a large body of knowledge and experience to draw upon in your creative practice. I know little bits of a lot of things. That is a great position for a creative. Since that first book in 2018, I have written 15 novels. Last week, I published my twelfth, and yesterday I finished editing the novel which comes out in February. My books have discussed addiction, and racism, forest fires, homelessness, and family dynamics. For me, I have found the lens which allows me to frame my world.

My indirect route to my forever pursuit is not necessarily unique among creatives. What I've discovered, is every path I've walked, every seemingly 'wrong' turn has merely added to my body of knowledge. Those detours serve me well now. I have a lot to draw from where my writing is concerned. Nothing has been wasted.

If you are on a path that isn't a straight line, just remember, everything you do or have done leads to who you are tomorrow. What you may consider a mistake or a wrong direction today may, tomorrow, be fodder for the person you are ultimately meant to become.


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