Saturday, 24 July 2021
Better late than never?
I'm always really pleasantly surprised when I hear that someone's read one of these updates. I know, if this landed in my inbox, I would intend to read it later and probably not get round to it. And I would hate for anyone to feel any pressure. I was even more surprised this week when one of you, whom I've never actually met, messaged me on Twitter to ask how the book was going and why there hadn't been any updates for a while. I'm genuinely touched that anyone is that interested. It had been on my to-do list for the last three or four weekends, to write one of these, and I hadn't got round to it partly because I'd been catching up on work - my poor boy has been hokey-kokeying in and out of school because of covid cases in the class - but also, if I'm honest, partly because I felt a bit reluctant to intrude on your time and attention.
It is, however, long overdue. I noted with some shock that I haven't updated you since March! So - crowdfunding-wise, we are £1.77 under 75% funded! Gosh. And, writing-wise, I expect to have a complete second draft by Christmas. It's been a huge leap from first draft to second. The first draft was essentially just stream-of-consciousness arranged into some sort of order and stitched together with old blog posts, talks, rants, poems, and goodness knows what else, while the second draft is, well, an actual book. I am, perhaps rather optimistically, hoping that it won't require a huge amount of editing from there, although there will definitely be improvements to be made. It's really coming together. I feel like I'm carrying around this glorious secret. There is so much unexpected in this book, so much that is filling my head, that has filled my head for years, and hopefully sometime next year it will also be in your head. I think some of it will really surprise you, even those of you who know me well. I oscillate between thinking that this book is utterly fantastic and will change the world, and thinking that it's drivel and will only serve to acutely embarrass everyone forever. We shall see, I guess.
I write for 45 minutes most days, set a timer and everything. It's the only way I can fit it in but, actually, it works a treat: keeps it ticking over, and present, so that my mind does a lot of the behind-the-scenes work of writing even when I'm not actually writing, and then ideas and solutions come to me when I'm washing up or on the school run. I have learned the hard way never to leave it alone for more than a week. If I allow too much space between myself and the book, fears creep in and fill that space - stage-fright, really: it's because it's about me. Last year, when I had covid and then long covid, and it was completely disabling, that left too much space and I became completely paralysed by fear - fear that it won't be any good, that everyone will think I'm a twat... I've decided it's a risk that I'm willing to take. This book is not yet what I want it to be, but I really think it has the potential to get there and to be something quite unlike anything else.
You have all been so patient with me through all of this. Not just the long covid (not gone but greatly improved), but my marriage breaking up before that, and work... I've been working so many part-time, fixed-term jobs. It's great in lots of ways - I love what I do - and I get to do so many different things and learn so many new skills. I'm currently senior research and involvement officer at Bliss, the neonatal charity; and a research assistant at the University of Manchester, developing a social network intervention for mental health; and a lived experience research consultant for Mind and UCL, developing a virtual reality treatment for depression; and I'm about to start two days a week setting up a peer support service at one of the new maternal mental health hubs in London... And then there are still history projects on the side, a gig at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, lecturing a few times a year, being a patient rep at the Royal College of Psychiatrists... And that's all just at the moment. It's all so rich and varied and valuable, but it's not sustainable, living like this, working such long hours, reminding myself in which context I'm speaking every time I pick up the phone, and having to hustle, hustle, hustle, shine very brightly, try to impress everyone in hope of creating opportunities for myself. I've been applying for jobs all over the place, trying to land myself something permanent - my holy grail, a bit of stability - for a while now with some close calls but no luck. I hope my next update will be the news that I've finally pulled it off. It would speed up the book as well.
This has been a bit of a long one, so I will bid you adieu for now. I can't believe we're nearly three-quarters of the way to being funded! Thank you so much for being here, and supporting me, and bearing with me while I take a very long time to finish a book. I hope you're well and as happy as anyone is at the moment with... *gestures vaguely out of the window*
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