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

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Ice Cream for Breakfast


And, just like that, my second book was born.


I wasn’t looking for book two – not just yet. Getting published in June this year, with Becoming, seeing Tweets and Instagrams and four-and-five-star Amazon reviews on the THING I WROTE TO GET ME OUT OF THE SADDEST TIME IN MY LIFE was enough for me. Contributing to The Telegraph and RED and Stylist and The Metro, going viral writing about celibacy, too, on top of that, well. It felt like a coup. Then I became a columnist for Grazia and I thought: bloody hell. Colour me done, lads. This is what success feels like.

The thing is, is like I’ve documented, I was medicated for anxiety, and in therapy for depression, and had resolved not to write much at all, at least not for a little while, for the rest of 2016, maybe, as all of this unfolded. So “success” is a funny word. Outwardly – to the social media eye – it must’ve looked like I was living the clich├ęd dream. But, by the time the book actually came out I was in a very deep hole, only able to focus on the next five minutes, only able to achieve a single thing a day. I gained weight, cried a lot, pushed people away. I wouldn’t wish the emotional landscape of my 2016 on my very worst enemy. I sank. My lungs filled with sand. I kept sinking.

In April, saw an advert on GumTree for a part-time nanny for a local family and I applied for it. I just knew that being around kids would… help. I’ve worked with them on and off my whole life. I needed to go and play for a while. That's all I kept saying to myself: Laura, go play.

I got the job - the author and journalist and columnist and writer got the nannying job - and I had a bonkers nine-month period where I spent twenty-five hours a week braiding hair and playing dolls and going to the park with somebody else’s children, where I would then would head off to the BBC for twelve radio interviews or write that column for the national magazine. Then I’d go and take these children who didn’t belong to me to swim class. Bizarre, t'was. But it helped. Working with kids forced me to focus on something other than my own issues. It was relief. And I was good at it.

I’d get Instagram comments and Tweets every time I posted a funny child-related anecdote or story, saying, “Laura! The Nanny Diaries! That so has to be book two!” I’d shrug it off, because who wants that story? SNOOZE. A bit like how when my friend Jamie said a year ago, “You know, you should write for one of the magazines about your dating life…” and I snorted and replied, “No babe. Nobody wants to know about that.” Sometimes other people see us clearer than we see ourselves.

Hodder & Stoughton, my publisher for BECOMING, came to my agent a few months ago and said, We’ve got an idea for a book for her. Does she have time to talk to us about it? Their idea was for a play on the nannying life: what lessons had I learnt from being around kids?

Jesus. Those kids re-built me. Put me back together. I could write twelve books on what kids teach us about being a grown-up - I just needed a professional to point out how obvious it was that this is what I should do next.

Briony Gowlett, my new editor, gave me a week to write up a proposal, my agent sent it to them on the Monday, and on the Tuesday they bought World Rights. It comes out next year, and we’ve already sold the book through a pre-emptive deal, to France. I got an advance from France! I’m using a lot of exclamations here because !!!!!!!

The book is Ice Cream for Breakfast: Child-Like Solutions to Bullshit Adult Problems. It’s going to be one of those gift-type hardbacks you see near the till, the kind of thing you buy as a present for the mate who needs to know she'll be okay. A pretty, helpful thing that can be put on your coffee table or in your loo, bringing comforting words of advice – with a lot of swearing.

The official line is: “ICE CREAM is the life-changing guide that every under-giggling grown-up needs to remind themselves of the freedom and joy that comes with rediscovering your inner child. It’s full of spirit and un-self-conscious enthusiasm, the permission slip all fully-functioning, slightly-overworked and inexplicably serious adults need to locate their inner-child nestled deep within.”

It’s been so fucking fun to write. Think short little chapters on the importance of sleep, of adventuring, of doing shit just because it feels great to do.

Stepping back from my career was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. Admitting I needed to take a break from my own life to take stock felt like an absolute failure at the time, like I was somehow “less than” or “unworthy” and yet here we are: I’m better now. Wiser. Stronger. Kinder – to myself, and to others. I can see straighter. See that there is so much good in our lives, but that it is so very easy to get bogged down in shit that we forget really doesn’t matter.

I felt less of an author when I became a nanny. Like I couldn’t be a “success” because I was making money from something other than writing and so that somehow removed the capital-W from my profession. How come everyone else was doing just fine? I wondered. Urgh. My brain played many tricks on me. I agonised for ages about telling people – my real life friends and my online following – what I was doing, because I thought they’d think less of me, like I’d come to think less of myself.

They didn’t.

I was so supported by the people who loved me for prioritising my mental health. That helped me to find my joy in writing, again. It’s crazy to me that the thing I was so embarrassed about is the very thing that my publisher suggested I write about. The thing I was mortified by became the next step in my writing. A book! I could never anticipated that.

I’m telling you all this - the whole damned story - because nobody ever fucking knows what the next six months looks like, or year, or ten years. That’s why it was so important to me to write the blasted thing. It’s basically 200 pages of saying, in as many different ways as I can: babe. You’re fine. You’re going to be fine. Breathe. Trust the process. Focus your worry on how to maximise the next five seconds or five minutes. Put on foot in front of the other, as slowly as you need to. I was in the trenches, too, and no doubt I will be again. That’s the nature of our days, the way life goes. Up, and down, and all of it matters. All of it is our story. But you will be fine.

You’re remarkable for the way you keep on keeping on, and I hope you know that. I hope you can tell the people around you that they’re remarkable, too – remind the people you love how brave they are to be human.

None of us is fucking up like we think we are, is the thing.

In fact, the thing we think we’re fucking up over might – one day – even become a book. A book that comes out April 20th, 2017.
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