I’m not a big fan of June.
I went off it three years ago when my mum died. The sadness that comes with that anniversary is failing to dissipate, even three years on. Grief doesn’t go away, you just learn to live through it while acting as if nothing is wrong.
I’ve written about my mum before but this post isn’t really about her (although I could write lots about her because I realise more each day exactly how brilliant she was); it’s about something that changed in me when she died.
I didn’t really plan this but it happens that each year in June I have taken on something that scares me, something that challenges me. These things have been a distraction from that grief but have also helped me to honour all the things my fantastic mum taught me, while learning more about myself too.
As we get to the third anniversary I look back to the year she died (when I happened to join the editorial team at Louder Than War just before her passing), at 2013 (when I launched Noble and Wild and put on my first Chris Helme gig), and at last year (when I organised and ran the two-day LocalGovCamp event and got myself shortlisted in the Digital Leaders awards).
I wondered what I could possibly do this year that would push me to the limits of stress and joy in the same way these did? What could make me feel so very alive and connected in the same way these things did?
So, here is that thing. I’ve taken the big, big step to start speaking openly about something that has been in my head for a long, long time and has been my main (non-work) project for the last couple of months – my debut novel.
Riley Reynolds has been born and you can follow her on Twitter.
I’ve taken on a new name to write under – mainly because my identity is already pulled in so many different ways it helps me to have a separate place to talk about the fiction coming out of my head.
The book – The Winter Passing – is currently in its second draft and I’m planning to publish later in 2015. The idea of it has been floating around my head for many years and I’ve sketched out bits of it at various points. I’ve never sat down and really committed to writing it though.
And then I found myself in a remote part of Scotland for a week at the end of March and the fancy took me to pick it up again. I’ve shown up every night to write a bit of it since (and that accidental commitment means I feel I can legitimately call myself a writer!) and eight weeks and 115,000 words later the story is told.
I’m really grateful to my first two readers – Kelly and Lauren – for putting our friendship on the line by reading the first draft. I’m thrilled they have fallen in love with the characters and that they love me enough to be honest about the bits that aren’t working (and tolerant enough to ignore the many misplaced apostrophes). Their feedback has pushed me that extra step to putting in more hours on fixing it up, getting ready to publish it for all and owning this part of my identity.
Although I’ve never hidden that I write bits of fiction this is the first significant piece I’ve completed so it feels big, scary and wonderful to properly give it a focus this way. It is exactly the right thing to do to get through this year’s anniversary – my mum always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be and what I’ve learnt about myself is that doesn’t mean I have to be just one thing.
Life is short, and sudden, and often dark. It’s not perfect but for me living is about never putting off anything (apart from the ironing), being reckless in the things you love and passionate about the people and possibilities. Maybe some of that comes across in my writing as well as my outlook.
Inevitably someone will ask how I find the time to do all the stuff I do. The answer, as always, is because my husband is amazing and supportive and practical (as well as wonderful in many other ways). And because I don’t watch telly or sleep as much as I used to. Please don’t ask me how I do so much stuff *and* have kids – unless you would ask me the same if I was a man.
If you want to do something, you find the way. You live life as fully as you can at any given moment.
And what’s The Winter Passing about? Oh you know – love, loss, music and magic. The usual stuff.
And if none of that works out for me I’ve started bothering brilliant musicians about letting me do their PR or put their records out. Check out Noble and Wild in case anything happens on that score.