The time I emailed agents when I was seventeen

These days, I think a lot about my writing. Through meeting several inspirational people through connecting in NaNoWriMo communities to talking more openly about pursuing a career of writing in daily life, the topic of wanting to be a published author and trying to improve my stories is a constant one. I am also a new fan of ‘The Bestseller Experiment’ podcast – and am clearly late to it, as I’m only on episode 24 out of 124+ already existing episodes. Still, I love the podcast, I love the guest speakers, and most of all find it incredibly inspiring and useful.

What the podcast also makes me do is look back at my writing ‘career’, if you can even call it that, so far. Even in Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’, he discusses several events in his childhood that made him the writer that he is today. For him that was being sick and picking up comics and watching horror movies, and for me it was writing plays that heavily plagiarised Scooby Doo episodes, writing a ‘novel’ about my crush when I was a mere eight years old, and of course reading wonderful books such as the literary marvel ‘Judy Moody’.

Flash forward a few years, and we reach seventeen year old Eleanor who knows that being an author is something she really, really, really wants to do. And what follows is several months of my life which for a long time have made me want to curl up and hide away in embarrassment from the world. Although I still want to do that, I do also see that this was extremely important for the writer I am today. (And it makes for a good blog post.)

So by the time I was seventeen going on eighteen, I had spent years writing. I had evolved from scripts about young kids and a golden retriever solving crimes and tragic love stories about my eight-year-old self’s crush into writing the fiction that I loved to read. There was always a fantasy element, an element that I never talked about to other people because seventeen year old me was so self-conscious and worried about what others thought that she believed they’d think her lame if she said she liked reading fantasy. So despite seventeen year old me having written many many many many pages of various fantasy novels, some with vampires as an homage to Twilight and some with werewolves as yet another homage to Twilight, I decided to write something different in a genre that I didn’t ever read: contemporary, young adult fiction.

The concept was this: we’re in a high school (because every book I read about teenagers was set in America and they all went to high school, not secondary school) and there is a dorky girl who likes the boy who lives next door. Now, I know what you’re thinking – what genius concepts did seventeen year old Eleanor conjure. Such brilliance, such originality – I’ve heard it all. This wonderful little novel – which I think didn’t even reach 40,000 words – was called ‘Fizzy’, because the main girl’s hair was frizzy and someone once calls it ‘fizzy’. Again, I know, sheer brilliance.

What seventeen year old Eleanor did not understand, is that you can’t bash out a novel in a few months and not read over it again. Younger me thought the book was done as soon as I wrote ‘the end’. And so began the embarrassing part – I sent this piece of ‘literature’ out into the world to agents who are real, who exist, and some of who actually replied. I sincerely hope future me does not have to speak to an agent who read ‘Fizzy’, because I know that I will either faint, be sick, or run away screaming.

As you may have guessed, I received a lot of rejections. What I know now is that seventeen year old me was not ready for the world of agents and publishing – because seventeen year old me could barely think about receiving dislike over what genre she liked to read, so could certainly not take any kind of criticism well. There were plenty of ‘no, but thanks’ messages, a few plain ‘hell no’ emails, a couple of ‘there could be something but no’ notes, and then there were two emails that I remember incredibly well. And it’s these two emails from agents that I wish I could track down, so I could send them another email to thank them – except I will not do that at all, because the thought of letting ‘Fizzy’ resurface in my life is one I don’t want to entertain for even a moment.

One of these emails, my second favourite looking back, was from an American agent. She actually asked me for the whole manuscript. This was the moment when I was picturing book deals, red carpets, and lavish parties, but of course didn’t end in anything of the sort. The reason I remember this is not only because it was one of the best moments, and emails, ever, but because it was a moment that gave me hope that writing was something I could do. It was the first time I’d had positive feedback about my creative writing that wasn’t from a friend or family member. No, it didn’t end the way I wanted, but it was a boost that seventeen year old me really needed.

The second email, the one that I am the most grateful for even though it’s the one that seventeen year old me hated the most, was from an agent who actually wrote back to me with feedback. It wasn’t just a ‘no’, but a ‘no, and here is why’. Younger me thought it was a bit much, seeing it as a ‘no, and now I’m going to tear your creation to shreds’, whereas I can now look back and think actually, he was absolutely right. He told me that he felt my main characters, although they said they were seventeen, felt much younger. He also told me that the book was far too short in word count to be a piece of young adult fiction, and that it would need a lot of reworking. He told me that he thought I had a nice voice coming through in the work and he could see some good elements, but overall it wasn’t for him but I should keep trying.

At the time, all I saw was the no and the criticism. I definitely cried over that email. This is why seventeen year old me was not ready to be a committed writer – because then, and even now a lot of the time, I could not take any kind of negative feedback. Here was an agent who had read my first three chapters and had taken the time to write back with constructive, useful feedback, and I was an utter wreck. When I hear about authors with their grand journeys to published glory, nowhere did I see any mention of a failed novel attempt that was so shameful they never mentioned it. Of course now we all know the many times authors get rejected, especially with the classic go-to rejection story of J.K Rowling with her Harry Potter series. But back then following the disaster of ‘Fizzy’, I thought my life was over. I thought my first draft of a book that wasn’t even in a genre that I liked to read with some pretty one dimensional characters and lack-lustre plot, would do well. Or, at least, do better than it did.

The experience as a whole taught me a lot. I of course now know that one draft does not a novel make – nor does 33k words. I know that writing ‘the end’ does not actually mean you’ve reached the end. I know that I should write what I enjoy, and that if someone gives me grief for a genre I like, then they aren’t someone I want to be around. I know that when someone writes to you and gives you feedback, you need to take a deep breath, detach yourself from this work you have created, and take the advice to heart. Writing isn’t easy, especially when you’re seventeen. But if I’d taken that feedback and worked with it and moved on instead of sulking around for several months and vowing vengeance on various agents, ‘Fizzy’ might have become something that I felt proud of.

Everyone has to start somewhere. For me, that start was terrible mystery-solving plays, not-quite-so-epic love stories, and a terrible little book called ‘Fizzy’. At the very least, I know it can only get better from here.


Pursuing the dream of writing

When I first set up this blog, its purpose was to serve as a platform on which I could share my stories. It could be a chapter of a book I was writing, a few scenes of an idea I liked – essentially anything that I was working on. I’ve always been terrible at sharing my creative writing work, and still am to this day, so ‘alwayslovetowrite’ became an exercise in letting go of my fear and hitting that upload button. Somehow, it was far easier to do – I could publish that piece online and then shut down my computer. Whilst I wanted people to like it, I wasn’t concerned by how many, or how few, actually read it or commented.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in primary school. I remember writing terrible plays, writing part-biography part-fiction stories about my life, and even once trying to write songs. One piece of advice I’ve heard countless times from authors is that you don’t need to be published to be a writer – the only way to become a writer is to write. In that way, I suppose I have always been a writer, but my dream has always to be a published one.

Every now and then I get the urge to write again – normally up to and surrounding November due to NaNoWriMo (if you don’t know about NaNo, check out my 2017 blog about it here). No surprise, last month I had a huge resurgence of energy and motivation to get back to writing, and ended up returning to the book I wrote over a year ago now. I loved the story idea and the various characters, but it definitely felt unpolished – even after I went through and edited it last year.

Before returning to it this time, however, I picked up On Writing by Stephen King. If anyone reading wants to be better at writing or is just interested in Stephen King and his writing history and process, I would highly recommend picking this one up. It starts with his ‘CV’, as he calls it – a section filled with episodes spanning his whole life that has made him the bestselling author he is today. Following this are his pieces of wisdom and advice on what is in his writing ‘toolbox’, and how to apply the various tools into creating a brilliant piece of written work. This is a book I’m sure I’ll go back to read again, if only for King’s engaging and entertaining writing style. It feels like you’re in an elusive writing masterclass with this author baring all of his writing secrets, and there are so many of his tips that I am now constantly using.

As I now work in publishing, there is so much I know about and yet still so much that I have no clue when it comes to getting published. Following successful authors on Twitter and Instagram is similarly helpful and not helpful at all, but it all helps to build a picture in my mind of what to aim for.

I won’t get published this year – most likely not even next year, or the year after that. But whilst I still love writing, and am proud of what I create (after many, many edits), I’m determined to keep trying. Who knows, maybe by the time I’m in my forties I’ll have a book that has my name on the cover which I can find in a bookshop. Maybe even a book that people have read and a few of those have liked. That’s the dream I’m pursuing.

Potty for Podcasts

Well, it’s been a while – two months, in fact, since I last wrote on this blog. I have a million excuses, ranging from inspiration to work to health, but excuses are boring, so let’s just get on with it.

As we all know by now, I want to be a writer. No, scratch that, if there’s one thing everyone says is that you have to stop saying ‘I want to be a writer’. So let’s rephrase: I want to be an author. More specifically, an author who is traditionally published and has a physical book out that generates some money. At this stage in my life, I’m not worried about being a full-time author – I very much adore my current job, and if I did somehow miraculously become published, I would want to keep my current job and write on the side.

There’s just one small problem with my pipe dream, and that is that I don’t give it enough attention. Sure, there are moments when I do so much writing I end the day feeling smug and accomplished (mainly during November when I participate in NaNoWriMo). But for most of the year, especially since starting my new job, I hardly ever write. It’s not that there aren’t any chances to write, but I seem to pick other things like reading, watching movies with my friends, going out socialising, and just plain ol’ relaxing, especially in the hot weather England has been having recently.

Once you get out of the practice of writing everyday, it’s difficult – or at least, it is for me – to get back into the habit. I love writing, I really do, but it’s got to the point where I just don’t prioritise it anymore.

Enter: podcasts.

The only podcast I listen to regularly is My Dad Wrote a Porno, and incredibly funny podcast that I’m sure many of you are aware of. My only issue is that, like with audiobooks, I don’t know when to actually listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I’m trying to get into running (if the crazy hot weather will actually let up for a moment so I don’t die trying), and I’ve found that listening to podcasts and audiobooks on a run works perfectly for me. I can’t listen on my commute (damn you noisy tubes), and I can’t listen as I work as I can’t concentrate on writing and listening to people speaking at the same time. This is why I haven’t been very good at keeping up with the podcast scene, and why I’m so late at discovering podcasts about writing.

Honestly, after listening to a couple of episodes from different podcasts all about writing, I felt the urge to grab up a pen and notepad or whip out my laptop to get back to writing. Whether it’s people talking about books, interviewing authors, discussing techniques – all of it I adore. In particular, I listened to The Bestseller ExperimentThe Riff Raff Podcast and The Honest Authors’ show. Listening to discussions on everything from the industry and what readers are looking for to general writer worries and efforts to get published is just so motivating for me. Listening to authors talk about how they struggle to fit writing in everyday, or listening to wannabe authors talk about juggling work and writing is reassuring and, strangely, uplifting. Here are other people going through the same thing I am, all of us with the same goals and dreams in mind, all navigating the world of writing and publishing – most of the time without really knowing what we’re doing.

I’d highly recommend looking into a podcast for whatever you’re interested in – be it book reviews and writing like I am, or not. Little episodes of thoughts and ideas from other people, all at your fingertips to discover whenever works best for you. When I listen to people discussing writing advice and thoughts on how to improve feels like being in a brainstorm session, as if I’m included in the conversation. Helpful, entertaining, and motivating, I’m a new podcast fan.

Let me know if you’ve listened to any podcasts recently that you think are fantastic, whether they’re about writing or otherwise. For me, podcasts create a chance to look at the world from a fresh perspective and listen to the thoughts of someone else, instead of having mine clambering around inside my head looking for attention. A brilliant medium, one that from here on out I’ll be sure to recommend.

Commenting on Creativity

I originally started this blog because I wanted to share my creative writing with the world. I deleted most of the first posts I made, as looking back the writing I did then seemed terrible. I’m sure if I look at the writing I did a couple of years ago I’d think it awful, but that’s the point of learning and growing – hopefully, you’ll always get better.

It’s never been a secret that one day, somehow, my dream is to be an author. Or, more specifically, a published author who can earn a steady income from books written alone. I love my current job, and if I could quit tomorrow to just write books I wouldn’t – I’d rather stay in the job I have now and write books for fun. But this isn’t what I want to talk about today. No, right now I want to write about commenting on creativity, and how that can help and hinder someone.

I was talking with my flatmate the other day about creative writing, as I sign up to so many free courses to get hints and tips for writing well. There are so many documents on my computer of half-finished stories, bullet points of ideas, and even a couple of ‘finished’ books. I have so many notebooks (which I hoard to an excessive extent) with hastily scribbled musings and random scenes, as well as several jottings on the notes app on my phone. When I was in university, it made sense to me to pick a creative writing module in my second year – it was, after all, what I dreamed of doing one day and happened to be doing most days anyway.

It’s safe to say now that this isn’t exactly a happy story.

That creative writing class was one of the worst classes I ever took at university, partly due to the terrible teaching and partly due to the soul-crushing, heart-wrenching trauma of losing faith in your dream and what you love. Yes, it sounds melodramatic, but creative writing is something I’ve done all my life – from terribly written plays when I was tiny that ripped off Scooby-Doo, to the very short book I wrote when I was 16 and foolishly thought that it was good enough to be published – and to go to a class all bright-eyed and hopeful only to come out with my work torn apart with vicious comments circling around in my mind, I thought that was the end for me.

There is a difference between constructive criticism and just criticism. Telling someone ‘your characters are a bit weak, you should try building up their backstory more to reflect a more complex character as a whole’ is very different to saying ‘your characters are awful’. And that’s what that class was for me.

Each week someone would have to bring in their response to a task – there was writing a short story based around a recent news piece, or writing a story that happened over the course of an hour. We spent the class focussing on that person’s work, and giving feedback on how we found it. I ended up with the task to rewrite something that happened to you from someone else’s perspective, something that I spent a long long time on just because I was so excited about it.

I like to think I’m not completely naive. I’m not very good at taking harsh criticism as it is, and very much like the sandwich tactic where you give a bad point in between two nicer comments. Still, I went into that class and braced myself, repeating a mantra that it was all good constructive criticism. And then the teacher opened up the conversation with “So who knows who Jonathan (my main character in the story) is? No one?” She turned to me and immediately said, “And that’s why your story isn’t any good. Because we don’t know who the main character is.”

It felt very much like a slap in the face, especially as I tried to say that I had tried to gradually introduce him in a way through first person narration that didn’t feel like a paragraph of him looking in the mirror and describing himself and his life story. Still, the teacher insisted, it was very bard form that you didn’t discover his name until the third paragraph, and the fact that you don’t get his full background in a 1,000 word piece just isn’t good enough.

And so it began. On and on she went, with some of the class chipping in with “your style just doesn’t work”, “your language choice is poor”, “I just didn’t like it at all, really”. I remember being given back 15 copies of my work, with scribbles all over it. There were some kinder ones, with comments every now and then saying “I love this bit!”, but those weren’t the ones I thought about afterwards.

So after that class, I ended up keeping my head down for the rest of the module. Frankly I felt useless, and didn’t really care to continue it. I don’t like sharing my writing even on a good day, and after that I’m loathe to share even a paragraph of something I’ve written to friends who I know wouldn’t even dream of saying anything in a nasty way.

Commenting on someone’s creativity can change the way they are creative altogether. I’m very much of the belief that a comment, remark, or critique made in a way that’s meant to be positive, or rather something said by someone who means well, is always good. When 16-year-old me had an email back from an agent saying my story needed more developing, as the main character was said to be one age but came across as another, I was at first mortified. Then, after ten minutes of thinking my life was over and plenty of chocolate, I realised that an agent had taken the time to look at my work and give me some feedback. Good feedback, at that. Looking at that terrible book now (a moment of silence for ‘Fizzy’, who will never see the light of day again), the agent was exactly right. The main character does come across as a different age, but they didn’t write back to me saying ‘This is crap, burn it, your character is terrible’. They gave me constructive criticism – which really, is a critique with guidance. Yes, the character was terrible, but I was told why and most importantly how to make it better.

Creative work is a tricky beast at best, and critiquing creative work is even worse. You know, as well as everyone else does, how much heart and soul and effort you pour into creative work. I’m sure everyone in that class felt as precious about their work as I did about mine. But it’s difficult to comment on someone else’s creation in a way that is helpful without being unkind, which is something that I think my old teacher needed to be taught. She would quite happily tear work to shreds, but offer no form of guidance for how it could be better. On another person’s work she’d just occasionally write ‘no’ next to certain paragraphs, which was as illuminating as being stuck in a cardboard box in the dark.

So the next time you comment on someone’s creativity – be it someone’s song, a rhyme they made up, a story they scribbled on a napkin – take a moment to form whatever thoughts you have in something that is helpful. You can be positive and critique someone at the same time. Even if what that person has done is a flaming pile of cow dung, you can still say something nice before you deal that blow – like the fact that the flaming pile of cow dung is a really good first step, there’s just a few changes you’d make….

Reflections on women, exercise, and body image

I’ve recently started reading Anna Kessel’s Eat, Sweat, Play, and even though I’m not even halfway through it’s already had such an impact on me that I knew I wanted to write about it. The comments and observations she’s made in just a few chapters have been so striking that it’s made me want to take a step back and re-evaluate.

Recently I joined my local gym, and in the past few weeks I’ve been going at least twice a week. This week is the first week where I’ve settled into a routine, doing spinning classes twice during the week after work and going to an intensive workout class on the weekend. My main motivation for joining was guilt and shame; guilt because I knew that I didn’t exercise enough whatsoever, and shame because I don’t like how my body looks.

I’ve felt better after going to the gym, mainly because after I’ve gone to the gym I feel like I’ve reassured my turbulent mind that flips between lusting after sweet things and insulting every ounce of my skin. At the beginning of this week I picked up Anna Kessel’s book, and every time I read another few pages I’ve felt like telling myself off, even as those feelings of guilt and shame still riddle my mind. Eat, Sweat, Play firstly makes the very clear point that women and sport are not often portrayed in media as things that go together. Women playing sport – playing’ being a key word in that sentence – aren’t often shown, and instead women are told about exercising. The difference in a media standpoint is that sport is a competitive environment reserved for men or a fun one reserved for young children, whereas exercise is a realm where women can participate in order to make their bodies better. Whereas sport is fun, exercise is about getting in shape – something that women are told they need to constantly do.

Sport, as Anna Kessel describes it, is meant to be fun. It’s not meant to be a chore or something that you dread doing, it’s something that you choose to do as you enjoy it. Exercise is prescribed, sport is willingly committed. In my experience, they have been one and the same thing – something that I’m not very good at and something that I don’t look good doing. From sweat patches to flabby pieces of my body to stretch marks to short breaths, exercise and sport are words that I have mostly avoided. I always claimed that I liked exercise when I didn’t think of it as exercise – such as rock climbing or kick boxing – as those activities I saw as being more enjoyable. Those activities, I now realise, are sports. Maybe a rather simple realisation, some may think, but this revelation is one that does not come lightly to me.

The war between getting fit and enjoying myself has been something that I’ve felt constantly going on in my head. On the one hand, I can just live my life and have that piece of chocolate, or I can be attractive and slim and fit. Yet, there is an in-between – a stage that I have always hated, and have never actually gotten out of. It’s the stage where you get out of breath after a rather simple exercise, the stage where there are bits of your body that you still can’t stand to look at. It’s the reason why I always hated the thought of going to the gym.

Whilst reading, there have been comments about women’s bodies in sporting environments that have made me want to throw my book across the tube carriage. Women’s bodies are constantly being criticised or sexualised or both. Either your body looks incredible in sport, so you’re sexualised to the point that you feel you cannot participate on an equal level, or your body maybe isn’t up to standards so you’re criticised so much that you’re too embarrassed to participate. Either way, women have been excluded from the world of exercise and sport – a world that there is no reason why they should be.

Embarrassment is an emotion that I feel often when I’m at the gym, and usually I push it so far back to the edge of my sub conscience that I just pretend it isn’t there. When I’m in the changing rooms, I take such pains and care to make sure that I show the least amount of skin as possible. In the gym itself, I feel like everyone is watching me and judging me for how out of breath I get or how unattractive I am when I exercise. After working out I try to cover any sweat patches I have, feeling them like brands on my skin that tell the world that I’m disgusting, ugly, unworthy, repulsive.

But why? Why is my brain programmed to think that I need to keep my body hidden in a changing room? Why does my mind immediately jump to the conclusion that people are watching and judging me? Why do I instantly think that evidence of sweat will make anyone think anything other than ‘she must have worked out’?

Self-consciousness plays a part, yes, but it’s obvious that I’m not the only one that goes through these awful cycles of thought. Clearly women all over the world have the same feelings, and they’re powerful and damaging enough that they exclude so many women from doing something as simple as going for a run.

I’ve set myself a lot of goals recently, and going to the gym regularly is one of them. Now, however, it’s a combined goal – I want to go to the gym regularly and see it as a fun thing I’m doing, and not a chore or prescription. I want to go to the gym not because I think i’m fat and ugly and deserve a punishment, but because I want to be fit and healthy, and this is one way that I can achieve that.

Eat, Sweat, Play is such an important book, and it’s one that I wish I could give to my teenage self so I could come to these conclusions – or, at least make progress on changing my mindset – so much sooner. I’m looking forward to seeing what else the author is going to show me about sport and exercise, and I’m also looking forward to getting up and going to work out – not because I hate my body, but because I love it.

So ends my late night Saturday rambles.

My Relationship with Makeup

For as long as I can remember, I have had a weird relationship with makeup. This is a post that I’ve written many times, and a subject that I talk on and off about, but I wanted to revisit it now. As someone who now wears light makeup everyday to work and has now come to view my face as looking messy and unattractive without it, I needed to revisit it – more for myself, rather than anyone else. The mindset that is starting to develop around my use of makeup today worries me, because after years of rarely using makeup as I a) couldn’t be bothered to spend so much time and money on it and b) not thinking it necessary, I’m now struggling to figure out how I feel about it all.

When I was a teenager, I had incredibly bad acne which in turn made me extremely self-conscious. Part of me thinks that a lot of my problems might have been solved if someone had shown me how to use makeup to cover up all the flaws and insecurities that branded my face. If I had known that it would only take a few dabs of concealer to cover up the worst of it, I like to think that I would have been far more confident in my day-to-day life.

The other part of me is grateful that I didn’t wear makeup, as I’m certain the reason my skin is good most days now is because I didn’t clog up my pores with foundation every day during puberty. I’m very much of the belief that makeup is yet another commodity sold by the media to women in a society where still women are made to feel that their best asset is their beauty. Businesses manipulate women into buying makeup by playing off those insecurities that are practically bred into every little girl to think that to be beautiful is what is most important.

I suppose that’s one reason that has been in the background of my thoughts toward makeup. Not wearing makeup was as much as a declaration as wearing makeup was, and by deciding for myself that I wasn’t going to wear any made me feel stronger and confident in a way that makeup didn’t. Makeup was a crutch, in my mind, and a crutch that society was telling me that I needed.

But just because I had made my mind up about this by no means meant that others had the same approach. Whilst in my head I was telling myself that makeup was a means of expression and should be optional, not mandatory, others may well have been looking at me thinking that I didn’t look polished or pretty. Or, better yet, thinking that I could be pretty if only I put some effort into it. And how damaging is that? Beauty is a standard set, one that we can never truly obtain – once you use makeup, you’re encouraged to use more and more until you leave the house wearing a different layer of skin.

Family members would tell me before interviews, all meaning well, that I should definitely wear some makeup to look more ‘professional’. They were essentially telling me that if I didn’t wear makeup, I would look like a slob. As if makeup was no longer a choice, but an expectation that I was meant to fulfil in order to get a job. And once I got the job? I felt so much pressure to keep up a good appearance that I started wearing makeup everyday, which brings me to now. Whilst I don’t wear a lot of makeup, everyday I make time to put on concealer and powder, to wear some mascara and blush to make myself look better. Whereas in my last job I rarely used makeup, not at all concerned about not wearing it, I now look at my skin and think that it doesn’t look nice without it.

This was the mindset and outlook that I was scared shitless of obtaining, like it was some sort of plague sweeping across the nation which I had somehow managed to avoid. Is it not outdated, believing that women have to wear makeup in formal situations? If you saw a man and a woman with pimples on their chins, would you only think that the woman looked bad as she wasn’t even trying to cover them in makeup? Would she look sloppy, whereas he maintained a professional appearance? Would a man be judged for having bags under his eyes?

I stand by my belief that makeup should be something for the individual, something you choose to wear to express yourself, to show off your creativity and flair. It shouldn’t be a requirement, and nobody should make you feel like it is. I shouldn’t be viewed as seeming sickly, lazy, or untidy simply because I didn’t want to spend time that morning caking my face in products for other people’s benefit.

So now I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Stop wearing makeup and feel insecure again, or continue wearing it saying that I personally prefer having it? It’s a statement either way, and I’m so terrified of making the wrong one. After years of feeling like not wearing makeup was part of my identity, am I now betraying my past self by caving to its appeal? Am I caving to the societal pressure and belief that makeup will make me look far better? That my own skin is just not enough?

It’s a maze I have been unable to navigate thus far. My feelings and emotions are conflicted, feeling attacked when people tell me I should wear makeup, as if they are saying I’m ugly instead. As if they’re saying that nobody would want me, be it to hire me in a job or to date me romantically, if I didn’t wear makeup. It’s a conversation and discussion that seems to have been going on for so long, that there can’t possibly be any sort of end in sight. It’s a conversation I’m sure I’ll be participating in for many more years, one where I wish I knew what the conclusion will be.

Another Year Bites the Dust

It seems crazy, to be back here again – at the start of January, having welcomed the start of a new year at the beginning of the week. I’ve never really liked the atmosphere around January, something I discussed this time last year, with how we try so hard to cleanse ourselves of the year before that it makes us almost miserable. The constant dieting, the determined weeks of sticking to resolutions with the knowledge that it won’t last. I always felt a sense of defeat whenever I tried to set resolutions in the past, because I knew they wouldn’t come to fruition. I’ve thought of saying I’ll exercise more, that I’ll be healthier, that I won’t eat as much sugar, and every year I last a good month before binging in whatever way I had tried to restrict myself.

But what if I don’t want to cleanse myself of the year before? What if I don’t want a new start, and am happy that I’m in the middle of my journey? I don’t want to wash my hands of 2017, or the year before that, and the year before that, and so on. Each of those years has brought me to where I am now, and I can say with hand on heart that I couldn’t be happier with where I currently am.

Of course, it hasn’t always been like that, and I’m so incredibly lucky to be where I am now. Still, despite all of this talk of hating resolutions, I still like to set goals and markers – albeit, very vague ones that are more like a continuing goal that doesn’t really have an end goal.

Maybe I should stop this rambling, and get down to the nitty gritty of it.



Last year I set myself three goals. They were to prioritise self care, to speak up and not sit quiet, and to ‘get out there’. The first was meant to be my take on the January Cleanse, but a more long-term effort. Like with all of these resolutions, I don’t have a plain ‘I succeeded’ or ‘I failed’ answer. I definitely improved on my self-care, that’s for certain, but there’s still a long way to go. I think I want to work even more on it, to set aside dedicated times of self-care instead of doing bits every now and then. I think it would be good to have one evening set aside to just pamper and relax, be that running a bath and luxuriating in bubbles or just climbing into bed and reading with a cup of tea and biscuits.

This leads to my first goal/resolution/whatever you want to call it, which is to be more self aware of my mental state. I’m so incredibly lucky and privileged not to suffer from a mental illness, but that doesn’t mean that I can mistreat my mental health like one would mistreat a body. I need to be more aware of when I’m in a low moment and feeling a lot of anxiety, and make an effort to combat that. Instead of feeling so low and depressed that it’s like I’m sinking, I need to get up and do something to help myself. The latter half of 2017 was filled with rejections for me, from jobs to love to plans that I had been looking forward to, and each rejection was like another blow to knock me down. I struggled a lot to stay positive and to pick myself up each time, but looking back I know that there were things I should have done. Instead of wallowing and wasting days to sadness, I should have tried some of that self care stuff I yammered on about. I should have gone out, tried to walk and breathe in fresh air, even go shopping for books or clothes or lush products (my current obsession). So that’s my first goal for this year: to look after my mental health.

For the second goal of to not sit quiet and speak up, I’m really not sure how to answer how I did. I definitely opened up more to my close friends about I felt, but I suppose a more accurate goal would be not to be so concerned with the thoughts of others. To just be, and not overthink how others see me – to not try to change myself to please someone else. I definitely learned how important that was in 2017; that it didn’t matter what other people thought, and really it’s down to me to decide how to act and live. Whether it’s on what other people think you should do with your career, or what they think about the people you surround yourself with – the important thing is to make sure that you’re happy, because the thoughts of strangers and of those you don’t care about really don’t matter.  So my second long goal of 2018 is to continue that – to work on what makes me happy.

The third goal was to ‘get out there’. I interpreted that vague cliche as pursuing my career-centred goals, from writing more to getting ahead in publishing. Well, I can say that this was successful. In terms of writing, I once more participated in NaNoWriMo and won, and in terms of publishing I not only made more contacts which led to some work experience in a large publishing house, but I also got a job in a large publishing house – and not just any job, but my dream job in my dream department. Yes, I’ve been successful, and the end of 2017 was like a dream come true for me.


So my third goal for 2018 is less of a goal, and more of a mantra – and that is to keep going. Keep striving forwards, keep trying my best to be the best I can be, and don’t let that determination to move forwards settle. I want to maintain that drive and motivation to just keep going.

So that’s me for 2018. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be this time next year, but I definitely have some ideas and dreams of where I’d like to be next year. So, whether you’re the kind of person who loves those pesky resolutions or whether you’re more like me and prefer more open-ended goals (the vaguer the better), I wish you all the luck for 2018.

Let’s smash it.