Writing for a living

I want to get out of the 9-5. I don’t want to get up before sunrise ever again if I can possibly help it. And so, I’m going to write.

Your first million words are practice, they say. Who “they” are is a mystery, of course, but a million is nice and big and round and obvious, so I’m sure quite a few people said it “first”. Those million words are the first reason it’s going to be hard.

The second reason is that I really should be learning to code instead. I can code passably, and it opens a lot of doors, some of which will let me work in my pyjamas. But I have a head start on writing. Every weird five-sentence text I’ve ever sent has been practice. Every half-finished blog post in a thousand defunct blogs. Every tweet. And I can always learn to code next year.

The third reason this will be hard is that I am tired, and depressed. Some days I have a myriad thoughts buzzing around my head, but when I put the pen to the paper I can only think of lying down and forgetting about the world. I don’t know how to fix this other than perseverance and tea. Let’s hope that is enough.

By this time in 2016, I hope to have “Professional Opinion Slinger” in that tag line up there. “I was in The Toast Once” would also do.


Self-Acceptance and Self-Improvement

I was inspired to write this by an old Captain Awkward post about dating. Obviously, from the title, I’m not going to be talking about dating, but the comments section got me thinking. About halfway down a commenter named meerkat asked this question:

What is the difference between loving yourself and being a disgusting egotist?

The discussion didn’t end up convincing them that self-love is a good thing, so I’m going to have a crack at it fully three years later.

First off, I’m not a fan of the term “self love”. It conjures up images of bath bombs and smashing the patriarchy by wearing perfectly winged eyeliner. The word “radical” is often misplaced in front of it.  The idea of feeling that warm glowy feeling when you think about yourself is rather mad. So therefore I will be using the term “self-acceptance”, but I realise I’m splitting hairs at this point so if you want to use “self-love” I won’t come into your house in the middle of the night and pour jelly on your head.

(As an aside: I think this comic has the right idea, but it’s about loving your body so not strictly relevant)

And so, without further ado, why accepting yourself does not mean becoming a terrible feelings-trampler and all-round awful person:

Self-acceptance requires self-awareness

At least, if you’re the kind of person who has to learn self-acceptance it does. Have you ever heard your wonderful friend say “I’m the worst” with no trace of irony, often while they are literally serving you a lovely cup of tea at that exact moment? This is what a lack of self-awareness looks like, folks.

Yes, there are people in the world who will say “I’m the best!” without a trace of irony. They’re not the ones reading articles about self-acceptance. They’re the ones in sales jobs making your entire annual salary each week who feel no guilt about seizing land in order to drill for oil under it. If you’re here, you’re probably so far off from that place that worrying about going there is like me worrying that I will end up with weird skin-flaps when I get down to a size 8*

Self-acceptance, at least as I apply it to myself, looks more like: “Well I do spend my entire income each month, but I also listen to my friends when they call me with a problem and knit a mean sock.” Both the positives and negatives are self-aware statements, but the point is that they both exist, and I’m not just dragging myself down.

*Something I do actually worry about because knowing something and believing it are two different things.

You can love other people without them being perfect

Seriously, how many times have you heard “I love him, but I wish he would do his own washing up”? Yeah, exactly.

Self-acceptance makes you infinitely more useful

Do you have any idea how much energy you are using dragging yourself down? There’s a reason one of the side-effects of depression is fatigue, you know. And when I say you, I mean us, because boy am I tired these days.

I don’t know about you, but when I hate myself I am utterly useless. I roll around on my bed declaring myself literally the worst human of all time, wailing about how I can’t even do the washing up because I’m stupid and useless and ignoring my cat because I just can’t deal with another responsibility that I’m definitely going to screw up. But when I’m in a mood like today’s, I can write a blog post and then put all the cups I’ve been collecting in the dishwasher and give my cat a nice scritch behind the ears before actually going outside. Much better.

You can still improve

You can still say “I want to be a more generous person” without beating yourself up for always taking the last biscuit. Again, if someone you love really needs to do their share of the hoovering, you can 100% ask them to do that without automatically hating them. It’s just getting the knack of saying “well I guess I’m a bit rubbish at that” and then deciding whether you want to get better at the thing.

In fact, I think as a society we need to get better at thinking “this thing is flawed, but still good”. Jeremy Corbyn: our lovely socialist granddad, needs to improve on his attendance and maybe stop being friends with extremists. The NHS: a magical place of free X-rays, needs shorter waiting times and no prescription charges. Me: can write a passable blog post but needs to do it more than once in a blue moon. You: have good taste in blogs but should definitely recommend them to more people.

In conclusion

You should definitely start accepting yourself right now. THIS EXACT SECOND. I’m waiting. Think one good thing about yourself and then one thing you need to improve on. Write them down. Make the good one much bigger and do it in sparkly gel pens.

Now I’m off to put those cups in the dishwasher and be late to a social event. Toodle-pip, Readers!

As a Taxpayer

If somebody offered me tax immunity, I would laugh in their face and then skip away. My tax does not feed a bloated monarch (well, most of it). It lets someone who is out of work and breaks their leg get it properly set. One day, it will keep me fed and well as my skin loosens and my bones start to crumble.

On Radio 2 the other day, the mythical “person who needs no governmental assistance” was being discussed. This person, it was theorised, should not have to pay national insurance. They had been to a private school, had private healthcare and payed into a private pension. They would never lose their job, or if they did then they had savings. Their children were also privately educated. They would still pay road tax because they used roads, of course.

Not only does this person not exist, but even if they did, they would still have to pay tax, because tax is not a system where you put in coins and get roads and hospitals. It is also the means by which we redistribute the wealth that floats to the top of the pool. It’s stirring the tea of life so that the sugar doesn’t settle to the bottom. Your tax pays for libraries that you don’t use because it is supposed to. It pays for children you do not have because it is supposed to.

But if that isn’t enough to convince someone, remind them that when they are old and inflation has rendered their private pension worthless, those children that they have paid for will be paying for them.

Oh, and if they complain about “benefit scroungers”, frame them for a fireable offence and steal all their savings. Then they will have to apply for jobseekers and will perhaps finally understand what bollocks they’ve been talking all along.

This is not my real name

I guess this is obvious, but as very few people will ever read this post I wanted to use it for something informative but ultimately pointless. And so, have the reasons behind my pseudonym.

When I first said to someone “I want a pseudonym”, they offered “Clarrise Fibonacci”, on the grounds that I was a bit like the queen in The Princess Diaries and also good at maths. But Fibonacci was a man, and is well known, and I wanted to celebrate lady mathematicians. I wish I could have used Noether, but it sounded wrong with everything, and so Sophie Germain granted my new last name. This will also probably remind people of Germaine Greer, which is no bad thing.

And Briar? Well, Clarrisse Thorn is a person that exists, and I liked the idea of a plant name but one that was tough and spiky. I googled briar to make sure I actually knew what it was, and found that it referred to a variety of thicket-forming plants, which was good enough. Also, it begins with a B, which is important for some reason.

Huh. I guess I expected that to take more explaining. Well, I guess I will see y’all next time.

Briar out.