superlatively rude

because none of us is fucking up like we think we are, is what i'm trying to say

Monday, 16 April 2018

Your story is not ready for you to worry about yet

I teach creative writing, and often what happens is that my students repeat my words back to me and I don't understand that it was me who said them first and it's a headfuck.

I love teaching. I love communicating knowledge and I love using my skill with words to package information in a way that lands with the other person. I sort of took it upon myself, at the end of last year, to help one of the girls I used to nanny with her 11+ because I could so clearly identify where her boldest missteps were and part of me thought maybe I am interfering too much and then her mother cancelled her tutor and asked me to come over instead and you know what? She aced the exam and I know I played a part in that. After, when she called me to tell me how good she felt about what she'd done, I cried. She's working on a novel and she FaceTimed me on Easter Sunday from a walk on the Devon coast to show me some goat poo. That child reminds me to be love. Some people have commented that in my second book it is this middle child I talk about with most affection, out of the the three there are. It isn't that I like her the most so much as she is the one I had to work hardest with to have a relationship. She taught me I am more patient than I imagined and fairer than I thought and that sometimes you just need to be quiet and sit side-by-side to colour in. Not everything needs words. Imagine being the 11-year old to teach a career writer that.

Anyway, I teach creative writing (I don't. I teach confidence, mostly. I teach kindness and self-love and worth) and my students repeat words back to me and last week a student said, "Your story is not ready for you to worry about yet" and when I realised she was quoting me back at me I thought well damn if that isn't smart, LJ.

(I desperately want to be called LJ, but nobody will do it. I petitioned to be known as LJ for my 30th birthday present and still, two years in, they call me Laura.)

Your story isn't ready for you to worry about yet. I said it within the context of: just get down your draft. I was telling them not to self-censor or proofread as they go or worry about what their sister will think - that comes later. For now, do the work. Put on your blinkers and do what you can in the time that you have and be single-minded and fill the page because you can't edit an empty word document.

Make a mess, then tidy it up.

Be imperfect.

In the fire, what you get is... the fire. You have to live it. Lately I've been doing the maths of mortgages and deposits and when-can-I-have-my-own-family and why-is-everyone-who-achieves-still-only-25 and I desperately wish we'd stop calling pretty Instagrammers influencers and start calling them peer-to-peer marketeers not only because that rhymes because they get paid to sell us stuff and I'm fucking sick of feeling like I have to buy another pair of sunglasses to be relevant and current as a human.

I'm veering off track. See? I need to focus on myself a little more. On what is in front of me. I need to do the work of being here, and now, and live the middle of my days without worrying what comes at the end. I know this isn't a dress rehearsal, but also, I'm not particularly interested in getting it all right on my first go and that means getting messy with the doing. I think. What I'm saying is, I worry a lot. 

I say I want to make a mess and tidy up the edges later but I get paralysed with fear that everyone else is doing it better, the first time, and then somebody says the thing I once said myself and that is that your story is not ready for you to worry about yet. So I take a breath and tell myself I'm doing fine. The time to worry isn't now. Now is the time for doing, and trying. I just need to keep going, and do it with the faith that I'll figure out the details as I go. 

hey, I'm running a really cool London event on April 28th to remind us that none of us is fucking up like we think we are. you can read about it here.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Love is the bridge between you and everything

Of course, it was Valentine's yesterday. How could we have missed it.

I almost put a question mark there - you know, after that last sentence - but it isn't a question so much as a knowing eye roll. An eye roll with enough cynicism to prove how, like you, like them, like everyone with a Twitter account, above it all I am, except I don't mind, not really. I quite like love, and I reckon we've got a hold on all the ways it shows up for us. We know love is romantic, but also platonic and familial and sexual and sometimes, I suppose, more of a fondness than a love, but love is as good a word I know for fondness. For caring about another person. Maybe it's as simple as love is... remembering to give a damn.

I wrote two things on two separate postcards over the new year, and one of them was "Love Fiercely". The other was "More, whilst also enough", but we're not talking about that right now. We're talking about love. About remembering to give a damn.

Albert Ellis wrote that the art of love is largely the art of persistence, which I think is true. Persisting with caring. That's why I needed the reminder on a postcard, because I forget, ashamedly often, that love is a verb. There is so much doing that needs to be done, in love.

The most loved I have ever felt was at my first book launch, I think. One hundred people celebrated me, and mostly, it wasn't about the book. It was about doing the thing I said I would do and the ones who bore witness to that. And I complain about how we - "society" - only recognise traditional rites of passage like marriage and babies but when it mattered to me my people came and they roared.

The truest thing I know is love. Love as connection. Love as help. Love as a cooked meal. "It's up to you, not about you", said Sonya Withrow, and is what I think Jeff Buckley meant when he invited us to fall in light.

That's what love is. It's the light.

I have a tattoo on my left arm that says just show up and when I got it, I meant to my laptop to write or to my sneakers to train for another 10k. It means something else now. It means show up for my people, like they showed up for me.

It means love.

Everything does.

Monday, 29 January 2018

What you feel, you create

There’s a quote about how, if you keep moving forward step-by-step, one day you’ll look back and see that you’ve scaled a mountain.

This February I am looking back, and it is from the highest height I never thought I would reach.

At the beginning of 2016, I moved to London. I had undiagnosed depression in my bones, a book on the way, and nowhere to live.

I stayed with friends for a few weeks, sharing beds and making do with couches and blankets and then, for four weeks of consistency, sub-letting my brother’s place where I distracted myself from feeling rootless by talking to the cat and swiping on Bumble.

I knew I wasn’t okay. I’d been isolated for much of the previous eighteen months, travelling from Italy to Russia to Bali to India. All I had known is that I wanted to live as cheaply as possible and write a book. What I hadn’t understood is that a nomadic life with laptop in hand isn’t as good for the soul as the articles online has suggested. I wrote a book, and then I sold it, but I was lonely.

Time ran out on finding a home. I remember having a coffee date with a guy who had just sold his TV idea to the BBC, and I thought he was lovely and funny and kind and so walked from Islington’s Upper Street to Stoke Newington’s Church Street happily enough, wondering what it was to build a life.

I loved the house the moment I crossed the threshold.

I moved in and let myself break.

It happened when I was building a bed.

I had given up most possessions to travel. I didn’t own furniture or a lot of clothes. I didn’t have money to buy much, save for a cheap bed frame and a paper-thin mattress, two good pillows and a heavy duvet.

I cried when I built the bed. I cried when I built the bed because I was alone, and had nobody to help me, and didn’t know how to reach out to ask somebody to lend a hand, because there wasn’t anybody. I didn’t really know anybody. There was my brother, and a friend down the road, but I’d imposed on them already. So I built the bed myself, letting silent tears become heaving sobs.

I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed, but goddamn I built the thing.

There is more around me, now. The walls are pink and the posters have been framed and I still have that awful cheap bedframe, albeit with a much better mattress, but part of me can’t bear to throw it away.

I published a book, and then another one, and I got medication for the sadness that tugged on my belly.

I found a local coffee shop where they came to know my name, and a yoga studio with an instructor who tells us not to worry about the poses – to just breathe.

That’s about as good advice as I’ve ever heard.

Just breathe.

Breathe, and do what you can.

Did you know I run an online writing course called "Don't be a Writer, be a Storyteller"? It's only happening once this year, in March, and registration opens on Friday. You can find out more here.


Friday, 15 December 2017

Everything looks better with my eyes open

An incomplete list of some things I call my 2017 achievements:

- saw my first ballet, from the really cheap seats all the way at the back.
- cleansed, toned and moisturised every morning, and every night.
- bought furniture.
- threw a really very good Christmas party.
- refused to save the candles for best.
- called my mother.
- called my father.
- interviewed a celebrity.
- deleted Facebook.
- stopped nannying.
- maintained a relationship with the girls I used to nanny - and their mama.
- took a month off.
- bought £300-worth of sex toys all in one go.
- went viral online for falling over.
- said out loud that I want a baby.
- received a case of wine.
- got offered a horse and cart at the entrance to Soho Farmhouse.
- went swimming in the ladies pond on the Heath when we had the heatwave.
- went home for Easter.
- went ginger, and on purpose.
- hosted an event about mental health.
- did my first lit fest.
- took a day trip to Oxford.
- saw Titanic at the Royal Albert Hall with a live orchestra.
- released the paperback of my memoir.
- released the hardback of another memoir.
- sold that hardback to several countries.
- went to a drag show in New York with the editor of that hardback.
- recorded them both as audiobooks.
- started using a mooncup.
- visited Italy.
- got drunk over a cheese plate at a solo lunch in Lisbon.
- broke into a five-star hotel swimming pool with my parents in Miami Beach.
- cried in a Chicago Starbucks.
- accepted a blueberry off the fork of a man I didn't know in Brooklyn.
- learned how to make cheese scones from scratch.
- knew it was time to go back to therapy.
- let myself be loved.
- listened to a story about my friend going to Leonardo DiCaprio's house.
- told him I was falling in love.
- argued and knew he wouldn't leave.
- went to my first movie premiere.
- went to my first movie premiere in an H&M dress.
- blocked blokes on Instagram.
- caught the bouquet.
- got a writing partner.
- sold a treatment to a production company.
- let my pubic hair grow out.
- re-watched all of Mad Men.
- googled Christina Hendricks a lot.
- wrote my motto on a necklace and sold them to people.
- accepted that I didn't do everything I hoped I might, and chalked up pretty good anyway.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

To begin is to break your own heart

To begin is to break your own heart.

To choose means to not choose all those other things.

Before you begin, the possibilities are endless. The way your one true love will look, how your first novel will sound on the page. Before you begin, everything is perfect, because before you begin it’s a world of imagination painted in only your best and most favourite colours.

Beginning is a pull into the real world.

The real world is hard.

It is beautiful and surprising and sometimes, at noon on a Tuesday on the roof of an art gallery, you will drink a glass of wine and look at the view and wonder how you will ever leave this spot, this moment, because everything is as right as it could be.

But the real world is also never enough money, and never enough time, and never enough talent, or recognition, or love, or contentedness. The real world is compromise.


I read somewhere that compromise is “halfway happy”, and that is what beginning is. Halfway happy. Not as good as not beginning, safe from disappointment - but also better than not.

What is preferable, unreal perfection or real imperfection.

Knowingly halfway happy, or unknowing and unbegun.

The only thing that is sure is: not to try is not to fail.

To begin is to break your own heart, because it doesn't just risk failing. It is failing. It is already “halfway happy". Real life isn't designed to match what we sketch out in our minds.

But we must begin anyway.

Halfway happy is enough.

To break our own hearts is an underrated strength. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Above my bed

The metre-and-a-half wide frame has hung empty above my bed since July. I paid a man to hang it. I'd harboured, to begin with, reservations about how my feminism and my employment of somebody else to execute the job dovetailed awkwardly, but after I hit myself in the face with a hammer one night, not understanding the difference between a nail at 45 degrees into a diving wall and a drill with a spiral anchor into a brick wall, I decided the most feminist act would be, in fact, to use my hard-earned feminist money to feministly delegate somebody better qualified to help me out - who yes, just so happened to be a man. I have never looked back. 

The room needed something above the bed - that's why I got the frame and had it hung - but I couldn't rush to fill it. It needed to be right. I didn't want a generic Ikea print: they can satisfy the dead area behind the door in the living room because that is a neutral space. Bedrooms - bedrooms must be personal. Considered. It's where the two best things in a day happen: getting dressed, and getting undressed. Intention, and relief. Hopeful beginning, satisfying end. The rule I set myself for the print was the same as I have for restaurant menus and OPI nail colours - that when you know what you want, don't apologise for it. It's nobody's business that I get Big Apple Red every time. I would not be swayed by on-trend palm prints or vintage movie posters. I'd know when I saw it what should go there.

I went to Chicago again in October. Me and my two best friends - my mother, and my father - visited my brother, and this time I made it to the Art Institute. I ditched my two best friends when we got there, because 1) I like being alone in a gallery, so I can hear my feelings. I don't know why people go on and on about finding ways to hear themselves think. Art shuts off my thoughts, thank God. It activates my feelings. I don't need words in my head when I have that crashing sense of understanding in a place just left of my centre, sort of up a bit and then down to somewhere near my pubis. Thinking is masturbatory. Feeling is release. Looking at the way somebody else sees the world and getting a wordless punch that steals the wind from you, understanding that we are nothing, really, in the grand scheme, not when beauty like this exists, but also, we are everything, am everything, how did I not see it before? My solo body knows what to do better than my brain, in an art gallery. 2) I ditched my parents, my best friends, because they were bugging me.

Alone and happy and feeling things, I saw a painting by Max Beckmann - Reclining Nude. It was massive tits and protruding belly and generous thighs and sexy but also sexual. That's important, because The Mail Online - and we all read it, still, so stop before you start - tells us to be sexy, but that if we like sex we're sluts. Still. In 2017. Even after BeyoncĂ©s fifth studio album reiterated what Janet Jackson tried to say twenty-four years ago - that sex is fun if you do it right. I was once with a man who sent me a shopping list of sex toys, and taught me how to use each one, and long after he was out of my life the sex toys stayed and do you know what I learned. I learned that there is nothing to fear about my body when she is built for pleasure. Any size, any shape, any weight, that matters not when I know how to make myself orgasm again and again and again, and because I know how to make myself orgasm again and again and again I know how to have sex with other people that pleases me, and I have confidence enough to teach my partner how to make me feel that good, too, and when I look in the mirror and I'm blotchy and jiggly and mushy I am glorious because I am built to feel heavenly. We're taught to look sexy but not be sexual: the revolution is being sexual without being told what is sexy. 

The Max Beckmann isn't copyrighted for prints. Tamara de Lempika is, though. She painted La Belle Rafaela, a woman she met walking in the park who became her lover. When I was 20 I lived with my first and only boyfriend for six months, before we understood we had no business being that young and that co-dependant. We argued about a de Lempika in an art shop near York Minster, once, and he said some awful things about women who paint women and the block-style and pop-y colours. I met him for dinner after we broke up, when he was sleeping with my best friend and wasn't telling me yet, and he was carrying a copy of The Great Gatsby. "I picked it up because of the cover," he said, and the cover was - of course, you guessed it - a de Lempika.

The desire de Lempicka has for Rafaela is palpable. And I reckon de Lempika desired her - no, loved her, you don't paint somebody like that unless they're loved - because she was comfortable. Rafaela has an arm up behind her head and the other lays purposefully by her breast and her tummy is front and centre of the whole damned thing, demanding and unapologetic. Her face is tilted back and it looks to me as if she gives not one shit if somebody else is there or not: she's happy. Happy to be seen in totality. Happy with who she is. With her sexuality. With her chins and rounded arms and flat nipples and small waist and funny hair and she knows what it is to feel magnificent for free, to be a queen upon a throne of somebody else's finger inside her and to charge the mouth of another, over and over and over and over, more, and more, and more - demanding, greedy, full of herself because to not be is to be empty and I don't know if I am talking about Laura Jane Williams or Rafaela anymore but I found a print for the space above my bed. 

this first appeared in my occasional newsletter, How to Eat an Elephant. You can subscribe here.

Monday, 23 October 2017

The Death of Stalin

We went to see The Death of Stalin on Friday night, reunited as we were after three weeks apart and many utterances that we'll never go that many nights without each other again. I lived in Russia, once. I lived many places before. Once. But it was Russia I thought about, for reasons obvious, as I sat next to an Italian who laughed louder than anyone else in the knee-to-knee, packed-in-tight cinema, and who, in the quiet bits, used a stage whisper of a voice to say, "Baby, what? What did he say?" It's a trait that is partly endearing and mostly embarrassing, and that reminds me of taking thirty-one Italian teenagers to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre the summer I got my nose pierced, desperately trying to make them - the Italian teenagers - understand that talking that way, the whole way through, isn't how it is done in England, where even our standing ovations are polite. 
The film made me think of those months in the snow, when I learned that to drink neat vodka you must alternate it with eating something salty, and that if the Russians go home and you and the only other two British people you know there stay out and continue to drink vodka, you're absolutely drinking too much. So much so that you'll be taken on a drive that lasts hours and hours, miles and miles, the next day, and have to use the international sign language of panicked eyes and pointing to your stomach and then into your throat to tell the son of your English school director that you really must move from the back to sit up front. Before you move you'll see your colleague missed a spot behind her earlobe when wiping up her vomit last night. Or early this morning. You nearly make it the entire journey without throwing up, until the lone service station has only herring or golubtsy for lunch and no toilet paper in the loo, and it all becomes a bit much and you, too, get regurgitated dill behind your ear.
This is a photograph of the view as we made the long, treacherous journey:
I just scrolled back to October 2014 on Instagram for this, which is also back to the year the beauty PR job I got let go from (ultimately seeing me move to... Russia. It's all linked, you see) had paid for me to do some insane weight loss treatment that saw me fit into a UK size 10 jean, down from a UK size 16, in four months. Sometimes I see pictures of myself from back then, jawline sharp and the tops of my thighs strangers to each other, and I think, gosh, it was very nice being thin. And then I remind myself that I wasn't any happier, and I still couldn't get a man called Paolo to love me back. That was another reason I moved to Russia.

this first appeared in my occasional newsletter, How to Eat an Elephant. You can subscribe here.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

How to Eat an Elephant

I’ve been wanting to say all kinds of things for ages, now, but I do this thing where I think I have to be a brand and have consistent messaging and purpose and that I mustn’t waste a drop of this finite creativity that I’m a fool – a damned fool! – if I don’t monetise, because it’s better to be profitable than popular.

And, you know, it is. I have strangers approach me on the street to tell me they love my Insta-stories, but videoing a lip-synch to Bug-a-boo doesn’t pay my rent. It’s tongue-in-cheek and fun self-promotion, sure, but god am I exhausted from the endless ring-road that is shouting about my work. Here, Twitter, Instagram, emails, events: like me, like me, like me. I suppose because my work is me. I am it. There’s no distance between who I am and what I make.

That’s the thing they don’t tell you about working for yourself, about being a “media-luvvy”, about making money from being you. That it is entirely possible to become bored of talking about you. I explicitly remember telling a journalism lecturer at university that I wanted to make a living from being myself, and she laughed, and this is a story I’ve told a million times so forgive me, please, if you’ve heard the punchline before, but: I wasn’t sure if she was laughing because making a living from being yourself is impossible, or she thought me, making a living from being my deplorable self, was impossible. I suppose the answer doesn’t matter now, because Instagram got invented and now we’re all micro-influencers and the star of very niche and self-obsessed shows. I think her name was Gail. Gail laughed at me. I’ll bet she has Instagram herself, now.

I used to want the world to love me. I used to want the world to know my name. I used to want to be known, and in demand, but now, I want a nice lie down. I feel like I’ve chipped away pieces of myself and given them to the highest payer, and it has left me feeling cheap and un-whole. I like being whole. I’ve been trying to feel whole ever since my first book got published, in one way or another. It was my ticket into this town but I can’t figure out the cost of it.

If I could give advice to any aspiring storyteller out there, to any budding entrepreneur, to any (oh God, I didn’t want to say it, but I’ve typed it now so it’s too late) girlboss, it would be to have your income be unrelated to you and who you are. You don’t have to slice off pieces of your vulnerabilities to be considered zeitgeist and edgy. You don’t have to examine your soul in public for your soul to be worthy. Maybe it’s a phase all creative women go through. Perhaps I spent my twenties exorcising the demons of the self, and now, two memoirs, a column, bylines in all major press later, I’ve done that. I’ve examined myself in front of an audience that never asked me to do that and I’ve grown up. My therapist used to tell me to keep something for myself, and I’d think, but what’s the point in going through it all if I can’t talk about it after? My best friend and I, we’d joke: do it for the story. I don’t want to be the story. Art as self-expression and using the self as art are two different things. I prefer the first one. I think I always did. I’m remembering the way again.

I’m lining up a new life. A life in a couple. A family. Children. I want that to be more insular. Less available. It being undocumented does not mean it didn’t happen. I had so much hurt before, I had to write it all down to feel like it was for something. The hurt is gone. I got that ticket. I’m here. I get to decide the new rules. The true powerhouses, the women who really change the face of the game, aren’t the ones writing. They’re the ones commissioning. Producing. Behind the scenes but at the top. I’m trying to find my way to that place. Something... less visible.

I’m launching a newsletter. It’s called How to Eat an Elephant, and it’s a place for me to experiment with new ways of telling stories. I’m proud of the work that got me here, but I’m hankering for a new direction. It helps to say it aloud. I can always change my mind.

(I won’t change my mind).

You got me this far. You believed in me. I see you, I thank you, I appreciate you.

If you want to stay aboard for this next bit of the (oh God, another thing there's pain in typing, but I just can't help myself) journey, you can sign up here. I hope you do.

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