On Being Privileged

Life is complex and often full of contradictions. I think most people accept this on some intellectual level but, when faced with a single fact or data point, it can be all too easy to jump from it to one conclusion and then the next without stopping to ponder what alternatives might exist as part of a more nuanced story.

That’s a lot of big words to express what perhaps seems a lofty idea, so let me give you a realistic example to truly get to the heart of what I’m talking about: in my previous post, What I Make As a Writer, I broke down the facts and figures of how I’ve survived as a disabled self-employed person so far. On the one hand, I have had to manage on welfare payments. On the other hand, I talk about having lived rent-free with my parents while I got on my feet.

Receiving welfare is, in some ways, a privilege because – while necessary for basic survival – it’s not something open to everyone in need for a myriad of reasons. Compared to the people who need it but can’t access it, we’re lucky. Yet, at the same time, we’re unfortunate to need it in the first place.

Living with my parents sounds like a more clear-cut thing. Yes, my existence there was rent-free. In some ways, that gave me financial freedom. But not when you understand what a toxic, neglectful, and downright abusive environment that place was. Most weeks, I had £10 to live on. Ten pounds to call my own after I paid the minimum amount off my credit card and student overdraft. An overdraft I was privileged to get in the first place, get disadvantaged enough to need. Continue reading

What I Make As a Writer

Some people are oversensitive about money. Some people will be scandalised that I’m about to break taboo in talking about it.

Some people, in my humble opinion, need to get over themselves.

I mean, yes, this stuff matters to some extent (I wouldn’t be blogging about it otherwise) but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not half as important as we make it out to be.

It was back in May that I promised to lift the lid on my personal income but, all of the above said, I’ve actually gotten a slight case of cold feet between then and now.

Please understand that, when I criticise people for focusing on things that maybe don’t matter so much, I’m including myself in that too.

In my first post I was all like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be radical and awesome, breaking down barriers and laying all my sh*t bare!’ And then, having calmed down and thought about it some more, worry started to set in that people would see how little money we’re actually talking about and write me off as barely a professional.

I asked myself if I should wait until I was earning more before sharing my figures. Then I remembered that I was entirely missing my own point. I’m not making this blog post to be impressive, I’m doing it because I genuinely believe more open and honest discourse is needed and that everyone would be better off for it.

So, without further ado, here’s me putting my money where my mouth is:

I started freelancing during tax year 2013/2014 – the best part of six years ago. I’d just quit a “normal” job from hell (it was a call centre. Enough said.) and didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was enthusiastic. Foolhardy.

I was also living rent-free with my parents, which is a depressing yet important piece of contextual information.

For the first eight months, I earned nothing. Not a single penny. I call this my ‘year zero.’ Continue reading

Summer Successes and Autumn Goals

This post is third in a series. You can find part one (covering January to April) here and part two (May to August) here. As outlined in those previous posts, I’m tackling this year in chunks, setting myself goals for four months at a time, rather than having a single set for the whole of 2019.

It seems to be working out.

My only year-long goal – the Goodreads reading challenge – has me sitting at 44 books completed off a total of sixty. That’s 73% complete/4 books ahead of schedule.

Before I get into my goals for the rest of 2019 going forward, let’s take a minute to recap on my summer goals and how well I did (or didn’t) achieve them.

In May, I set myself the following tasks:

  • Lose more weight
  • Continue to submit my first novel to agents
  • Make edits to my second novel and send it to beta readers
  • Draft yet another novel during Camp NaNoWriMo in July
  • Attended two publishing conferences
  • Complete my tax return

From that list, what I didn’t do was lose weight or write a third novel. The number of things I achieved (listed below) definitely outweigh these two failures, which I’m obviously delighted about, but they are still two pretty big failures. Though I will point out that I did take part in Camp NaNoWriMo, as planned, and got a few words towards book three in my trilogy. Overall, I wrote 25,000 words during July, much of it fanfiction works in progress that I wanted to get out of my head at long last.

Here’s the full list of what I actually did achieve: Continue reading

Life Advice from a Thirty Year Old

Sylvia Plath was thirty-years-old when she died. This is a sobering fact I have only just learned, having googled her to directly reference her fig tree analogy.

When I lie awake at night, I often think of the fig tree she described in the Bell Jar. Of all of the opportunities and the paralysing fear over picking one of them.

Somewhat fittingly, I have started to write this post several times, each with a different slant, only to scrap my words and start again. I almost scrapped the idea in its entirety, worried that not being able to select and follow a narrative was a sign that the whole thing wasn’t going to work.

Here’s a fun fact: life has many narratives. That’s the whole point!

I always felt like the fig tree analogy spoke to a deeper truth but from my perspective now, as a thirty-year-old myself, I actually feel there’s a lie at the core of it: “Choosing one meant losing all the rest.”

NO!

Choosing means choosing and nothing more. You can change direction down the road.

Changing direction is normal.

Changing direction can be the best thing ever.

Turning down one opportunity might mean it is gone and will never be open to you again but for every turn-off you miss, there is a literal infinite number of others and THAT’S OKAY. In many cases, that’s actually fantastic. Revel in the freedom of this knowledge.

Missed opportunities are not the end of the world, friend. I wish to god someone had sat me down ten years ago and told me that. Continue reading

Soakings and Seizures: A Day in the Life

Oh, what a morning. Afternoon. Would some people call half-five evening? Probably.

Whatever. As far as me and my sleep disorder are concerned, it’s morning.

I woke up an hour ago in the middle of a thunderstorm. My dog stretched and toddled over to me, then keeled over in one of his seizures. I lifted and cradled him to my chest until it passed, tried calling my husband in the bed next to me.

Unresponsive. He’d, evidently, had a seizure too.

I watched him for a minute, figuring it would be a while before I could reach him. The rain was still hammering down.

I went downstairs, puppy still in hand, and got him settled in his downstairs bed with some food. Next was the super fun part. I had to go out in all of the rain to fetch the wheely bin, praying I’d find it in the alley.

Our last bin was stolen. The one before that was blown up by some kids with fireworks.

It has not been an easy month.

I went out, got soaked, but did retrieve the bin. A small win, but important.

Hands washed and feet wiped, I went back to check on Steve. He was vaguely aware of my presence. The seizure had passed and now he’s into the extreme fatigue of recovery. Another good thing.

It’s still ridiculously warm, despite all the rain. The heat makes it all worse: my health, Steve’s, and the dog’s.

On my way back downstairs again, I can see the cat has destroyed more wallpaper. Great. She’s set about stripping a whole section, no matter how many deterrents we try or alternatives we offer.

Steve and I are supposed to be getting ready to go to Slimming World but it’s clearly not going to happen. Another week missed. Another fee incurred. But maybe it’s for the best. We’re in between payments again and can’t really afford it right now.

I need to go out for milk but am already feeling the day weigh me down. I’ve felt ill for a month– no, wait. Backtrack. Clarify: I’ve felt ill all my life. This past month, maybe two, I’ve felt worse than usual.

This would have been another day for not leaving the house at all, but I must get that milk.

The funny part is, this is me taking a break. I’ve been ‘taking it easy’ for the past few days. Which means still dealing with all this, and housework – dishes, laundry, cooking – but not really writing or editing. I haven’t had the brainpower.

When people ask me how I am, I say I’m “getting there.” I don’t know what else to say. I love my work, when I can get to it, I love my husband and my pets. Our home is the loving, accepting atmosphere I’ve always craved. On the whole, I do not have a bad life.

A lot of the time, though, this life is made of days like these. I’m getting through them. This isn’t me complaining, really, about any of it. I do want people to understand, however.

I don’t live a conventional life and I’m fine with that, but sometimes I do want to open up a window and show people what it’s like.

This is it.

On Being Strong

There are many different definitions of strength. Most of them, I find, are inadequate. Strength isn’t the absence of fear or weakness, and it isn’t something purely physical.

I’m partially thinking about this because I’ve been rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer season seven, these past few nights, but also because strength is something I’m constantly striving for. I have to remember that being strong is also not the same thing as being hard on yourself. I mean, sometimes it is, but not all the time.

I’ve done a lot of hard things in my life so far – fought through a fair few difficult situations – and where I am now, I have more hard things in front of me.

I am fighting against my body and the medical condition I have to get pregnant.

I am trying hard to lose weight – something that even people without PCOS struggle to do.

I’m also trying to secure a publishing deal.

These are big things. A lot of people much better than me have spent big chunks of their lives tackling one or other of these. The fact that I’m struggling with them is not a sign of weakness. Or, maybe it is, but that weakness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Sometimes, I gotta cut myself some slack.

I cannot be top of my game, doing my very best, all of the time.

Being strong is not an absence of weakness, it’s accepting the things holding you back – the things failing and falling apart – and going on, regardless.

I am both weak and strong. That’s okay. The same is true of all people, even slayers. I just need to remember that.

May Health Update

I had a blog post about publishing planned for today, but I’m feeling pretty rubbish and wanted to talk about that instead.

I’m on new pills from the doctor, and on new, special multivitamins, taking industrial-strength folic acid; I’ve cut out pretty much all of my caffeine intake, and I’ve cut way back on dairy. Which means I’ve actually stopped taking tea and cereal for the most part, because the coconut milk alternative I’ve been using has kinda put me off it, and the decaf tea bags we have aren’t great.

At this point, I don’t know if my diet is better off or worse, and I’m not sure which of these things is making me feel ill – maybe a combination of all of them, or maybe it’s psychosomatic because I’m trying so hard to get pregnant and feel like I’m getting nowhere – but I’m just so tired and tearful.

On top of that, I feel guilty for being a moany bint.

So things aren’t great. There’s not much of a point to this post other than to get that off my chest, but I feel it’s important to talk about life’s struggles.

Is anyone else having a rough time of it? Does anyone want to send me cute kitten photos? Let me know!

2019 Goals Part Two: Summer

Back in January, I changed things up a little and only set myself one goal for the entire year. That was my 2019 Goodreads challenge to read sixty books. By the time this post goes live, I should have completed twenty-two of those, which means I’m on track.

With regards to other goals, I wanted to focus on things in the shorter term so I decided to plan things a few months at a time and no further. Although it’s not fully accurate, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve split my 2019 into three segments which I’m calling Spring (January to April), Summer (May to August), and Autumn/Winter (September to December).

My Spring was pretty good, all in all. I had my second wedding anniversary in February and my thirtieth birthday in March. I spent a lot of January catching up on all of my accounts for my freelance work so I could get my tax return in before the deadline (which I did!). The rest of that month and part of February was spent doing voluntary work and, when I stepped back from that, I threw myself into decluttering the house following the Kon Mari method.

It felt good to get rid of things and, in the process, simplify my life (simplicity being a big theme of mine, the past few years). The end tally was: 4 bags of clothes (between my husband and I), 1 bag of bedding, 1 [big] bag of books, 8 boxes of komono/miscellaneous items and an untold number of trash bags and recycled things. I also paired down a lot of my social media profiles. Continue reading

On Believing Abuse Victims

I have just finished listening to the audiobook of Educated by Tara Westover. Once I started, I found myself taken over; not able to do anything else until I got to the end. It’s twelve hours long and I finished it in a day.

For those who aren’t familiar with the book, it’s a memoir: a personal account of an unconventional and abusive childhood alongside the story of how, as an adult, Tara came to terms with what happened and escaped the life of her family via going to college and getting an education.

This blog post isn’t about the book, as such. I gave it five stars on Goodreads and wrote a sentence-long review in which I said I had a hard time summing up my thoughts and feelings about the book, but that I knew it was important. The reasons I can’t sum up my thoughts and feelings is partially because I have so many of them and partially because those thoughts and feelings are tied to my own experiences of childhood. While my experiences and Tara’s differ in circumstances and severity, so much of it is similar. Someday, I plan to write a book about my own set of circumstances growing up. I have a title picked out, and an epigraph. I have started certain sections, but I am by no means ready or able to unpack much of it even yet.

This post isn’t about the book or my experiences, or a comparison of the two. That’s just a preface to what I want to say about some of the negative reviews Educated has on its Goodreads page.

Now, for the most part, the book has had an extremely positive reception. The negative reviews are few and far between. I probably shouldn’t focus on them, but it physically hurt me to read them and I need to talk about why. Continue reading

Goals for my Thirties

I turned thirty in March. As of right now, at the start of May, I have written two-and-a-half novels. When I think of what I want to achieve in the next ten years, those novels play a key part.

I’ve said before that, in the past, lists of what I wanted to do with my life quickly became lists of all the books I want to write. That hasn’t changed. Most of the goals I have are career based.

Here are the few that aren’t:

  • Learn to Drive
  • Learn Piano
  • Have a Baby

That last one’s pretty big. The first one is dependant on whether my dyspraxic self is actually safe to drive, and the middle one doesn’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still something I aspire to. Continue reading