I was working on a creative portfolio for myself recently, as a tool to use to grow my client base in Europe.
But I also found it such a useful exercise in reminding myself of all the different writing projects I’ve been involved in over the years. There have been so many great ones. But one of the most formative ones, really where my writing journey first began, was with my first ever blog in 2010. That was a life changing year for me – I gave birth to my daughter and soon afterwards I lost my mother to brain cancer.
Years like these change you, grief changes you, but one of the most helpful tools I used to process that grief was to write through the pain. I shared a lot with people on the internet. All the feelings. Probably a bit too much, if I’m honest. But it was incredibly cathartic, and because I was authentically sharing my parenting and life story, it really seemed to land with people. I connected with so many amazing humans, some who have since become firm friends, plus the blog really spring boarded me on to a new career path that included writing at its core. Out of this passion project of blogging, came paying work, sponsorship opportunities with brands like Ford, Lindt, Lego & Mattel, plus amazing experiences and gifts for my family, but most of all – the confidence to keep on writing.
Reminiscing about the blog also reminded me that no creative project is ever wasted. Often us writers feel that way, when a story we write never gets published, or a novel languishes in a drawer. We have to remind ourselves that those projects change us, and that they lead to other projects, new ideas, and new ambitions. Similarly with our book, now that it’s out, I know that this isn’t the end. It’s going to lead to exciting new ventures, and I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges from this significant creative effort (we’ve been getting some great reviews in the media – which you can read about here).
This week was all about refocusing (back to school as well!) after a wonderful holiday, where I got to do what I love best: travelling and reading. Here’s a round up of four of my recent favourite books:
- Sorrow & Bliss: Not the most obvious holiday read, seeing as it has the word ‘sorrow’ written all over it – but this book is also funny & uplifting, while dealing with the serious issue of mental health. It’s set in London, which I always love, as having lived there for eight years, I can really picture the places and experiences the author describes. Martha, a writer, is the protagonist, and is “just someone that finds it harder to be alive than most people”. This book had so many rave reviews when it came out and I think it’s because it describes mental health issues in ways that readers could really relate to and understand, whether you suffer from issues yourself or not. I certainly got insights I never had before, and this is yet another reason to read fiction: to understand more about human beings, relationships and the world around us. Fiction is hugely underrated when it comes to this.
- Great Circle: This was shortlisted for the Booker in 2021 but that isn’t why I read it – it was recommended by a friend who’s also an avid reader (thanks Emily!). I don’t normally like adventure/saga type books but this one was different – probably due to the feisty feminist aspect of the main character, aviator Marian Graves. The Times described it as ‘… a glorious tribute to women who push the boundaries of their one, brief life, breaking the bonds of their place in history and their female bodies, to soar higher and faster than others; and the price they pay to live so fast.” And that says enough really.
- Bittersweet: I adored Susan Cain’s previous book Quiet – which was all about the power of introversion. A runaway success, it clearly hit a nerve in society, as all us introverts finally felt validated, seen and valued. For most of our lives, we were told not to be so shy, and to smile, and to be friendly, and growing up introverted always felt a little bit like you were failing. Quiet changed all that, and Susan’s latest book centres on another personality trait that is misunderstood, or has never been fully articulated. Are you the kind of person who likes to play sad songs on repeat, because you find them so beautiful? Do you feel inspired creatively on a rainy day? Do you react intensely to movies, art or beauty of any kind? If so, like me, you may be of the bittersweet persuasion. Part memoir, heavily researched and hugely inspiring, I recommend this book if you want to learn more about yourself, connect more deeply with others and pursue creative projects.
- Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: First of all, have you ever seen such a cover?! Having designed book jackets myself in the past, this cover truly is a work of art (and must have been EXPENSIVE to produce – that’s a lot of foil). Anyhoo, the publishers clearly knew they were onto a winner because Gabrielle Zevin is a genius. Firstly, don’t be like me and let the ‘gaming’ aspect that the book is set in put you off. The gaming world just as easily could have been the music world, or the publishing world, or any form of arts – and you don’t need to be interested in gaming to like this book. There’s so much to unpack but one aspect I particular enjoyed was the professional ‘chemistry’ (for want of a better word) between Sam and Sadie, who just liked making cool things together. Stories, movies, society in general, tends to only popularise (and celebrate) romantic relationships between men and women – and there are so many others types of positive relationships that exist. I also loved the way the creative process was portrayed, plus the story itself is a zinger and Zevin writes like a dream.
(I must apologise if your email notification about this post is a bit delayed. I’m having trouble with my mail subscription programme and am trying to rectify it).
I hope this final quarter of the year is a good one for you, wherever you are in the world.