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

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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