I was so excited for last weekend’s A Focus On Nature’s “Now For Nature” conference at London’s Natural History Museum. Specifically aimed at 16-30 year olds, AFON is all about young people in conservation. Wildlife isn’t often popular among young people, so having the chance to meet like-minded individuals my age was a brilliant opportunity. From talks by big names such as Chris Packham and Stephen Moss to productive workshops from successful conservationists, the event was an inspiring weekend full of Conservation Optimism.
I was particularly pleased to meet Tiffany Francis. At just 27 years old, she has three books published, which is an incredible and inspiring achievement. Her big break came from AFON itself, where she wrote an article on wild foraging that was picked up by Bloomsbury and turned into a book. Tiffany went on to write her second about British goats – taken from her time working on a farm – and her latest book Dark Skies, released only last week, is about our relationship with darkness and wildlife at night. As well as writing the book, Tiffany also produced all the illustrations including the book’s front cover.
Speaking to Tiffany afterwards, I discovered how approachable and open she was. We chatted like we knew each other; in fact, when I gave her business card she said, “Oh you’re rebeccaonthewing!” which was a fantastic feeling.
I told her about the trouble I’ve had finding a specific identity in my writing and establishing a niche without cutting myself off from other readers. I also suffer from overthinking, which ends up being a real obstacle that stops me from writing. One thing I’d like to try is free writing, where I just sit and let thoughts pour onto the page. I’m hoping that not only will this lessen the inhibiting effect of overthinking but it will also generate new ideas. I’ve learnt that getting hung up about writing means you don’t write.
Tiffany’s reply was that I should just write what I enjoy writing. For a while she had conflicting ideas about her own professional identity. Was she a writer or illustrator? At the time she felt she couldn’t be both, which made filling out social media bios a real trial.
She later realised that she didn’t have to label herself as anything. She was a “creative”, which could mean writer, artist, public speaker and a whole range of other things. I’ve experienced this too, deliberating over “writer” and “photographer”, and although they’re not my greatest strengths, I also love painting and drawing which ties in nicely with nature writing as Tiffany has proven. I’ve come to realise that all these skills come together to form my identity as a “creative” and it is constantly changing and adapting. It doesn’t need to fit in a bio box. Tiffany said all that’s important about your work is it pays the bills, makes you happy and makes a difference. While the first may take a while, I can continue with the second and strive for the third.