The Interesting Women Interview (#5) - Laura Jane Williams
I love Laura's honesty and her truthful approach to life andit was lovely to ask her some questions and get to know her a little bit more. We talked about how it feels to write a book and have it published, the importance of a strong female network and the art of adventuring... enjoy!
1) I'm sure the majority of my readers will have come across you and your wonderful blog Superlatively Rude before, but for those who haven't, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! Hi. I'm Laura, I'm 30 years old, live in London, and am the author of memoir BECOMING: Sex, Second Chances and Figuring Out Who the Hell I Am (Hodder & Stoughton). I'm Marie Claire Magazine's #BREAKFREE from Fear ambassador, have been commissioned everywhere from Grazia to RED to Buzzfeed, The Metro, The Guardian and The Telegraph, and am host of The Becoming Podcast. My blog, Superlatively Rude, is where I write tales of my messy humanness - complete with liberal use of the word "fuck". Sorry I'm not sorry.
2) You recently wrote your first book, Becoming (which I adored!). What did you learn about yourself while you were working on it? How does it feel to finally have it out there in the world?
Thanks! Yeah, getting my memoir published was an incredibly wild ride, and a fast one too. This book is something I've been working towards for almost a decade. It's so important to me to make it absolutely crystal clear that I wasn't a blogger who "got lucky" with a book deal - I only ever started a blog to build an audience and practice my writing because I knew that's what a publisher would look for when I finally submitted my manuscript. I think I get so weird about that because the attitude seems to be "set up a blog and you can get free stuff and get famous!" and it's just... no. Don't blog for that. Blog to reach as many people as possible to tell them about other cool stuff you do! So I guess that's what I learned whilst I was working on it. That there's some stuff that needs 80,000 words to explain, and there's some stuff that only needs 800 words to explain, and figuring out the difference is vital - but at the end of the day, the feeling has to be the same. You have to feel physically compelled to share a particular story, to make a particular thing. At least, I do. That's how I know it has value - when I literally can't not make it. There's no way I couldn't not write BECOMING. I feel like I can finally go on with my life now it's published! By which I mean: wow. I really gotta get started on book two.
3) You regularly talk about how you juggle your life as an author and your job as a nanny. How important do you think it is to have a second job alongside your creative hustle? Would you recommend it to other budding authors or creatives?
For me, I've no interest in labelling myself as a particular thing in order to be that thing, you know? I don't need to write full time, or make all my money from writing, to be "A Writer". When I tried to write full-time, it literally sent me crazy. It was as if my creativity was finite, and by doing too much I became used up and frazzled. And... and it just wasn't fun. What's the point in anything if it isn't fun? It actually serves my work much better to do something totally unrelated to writing. With nannying, I get to hang out with these cool, engaged and engaging kids, and we head out into the world and do awesome, creative stuff, so that by the time I sit down at my MacBook again I actually feel like I have something to write about. I much prefer to write about what I live, than live to write. When I wrote full-time I was a boring human being, with very little to say for herself because my world had shrunk so much. I'm not saying what works for me is what everyone should do (I'm like, the opposite of an advice blogger!), but I certainly think that we can give too much weight to what our "title" is, over how we want to simply feel each day. And right now I feel great.
4) You are renowned as one of the most honest people on the internet. What drives your honesty and do you wish other people would paint a more truthful picture of their life online?
Oh wow - that's a really generous thing for you to say. Thank you. I guess I am honest, but only in so much as I am totally myself. Like, I don't sit around thinking "what honest thing can I say today to impress people?" I just talk to the Internet like I talk to everyone else in my life. I've got nothing to hide, and I don't feel the need to conceal much because the audience that I have is so incredibly supportive. Like, I am totally *hashtagged blessed* with the women who decide to follow me online and buy my books. The way they respond to the things I feel scared to write but publish anyway makes me braver and braver and braver. I've experienced very little negativity online. But then again, I empathically state on my blog that if you don't like what I do you can just keep moving along. Nobody *has* to listen to what I say! That's the beauty of the Internet! And as for "do I wish other people would be more truthful online"? That's up to them. I'm a very heavy user of the "unfollow" button, and incredibly protective of what I let into my online bubble because it is so easy to get the wrong idea about other people's lives and feel bad about my own. So, for me it's less about encouraging posters to be honest, and more about encouraging followers to only engage with content genuinely bringing meaning to their lives. Don't mindlessly follow accounts just because they're "big" or "in". Find what works for you. It's your life.
5) Travel has been a huge part of your life over the past decade and you've lived in places like Bali and Rome. Do you have any plans to travel in the near future? What do you think travel has done for you creatively?
Yeah, I've certainly been around. I love to travel, but right now I am very settled in my London life. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression just before the book came out, so keeping a small and quiet life right now helps keep my mental health in check. I've got a few holidays lined up, though, like taking Wonderful You to Rome to show her all the spots from the book. Travel is so important to me - but not as much as adventure. Adventure can happen even in London, heading somewhere new, or a short train ride from the city. Adventure doesn't have be multi-continent and last for months. Adventure is doing something special, that scares you, to see what it reveals about who you are. That can happen as much for me on a first date with a hot architect as it can backpacking Colombia. We fetishise travel too much, I think. Travel doesn't solve any problems... but adventure always does. Adventure is a state of mind, and one I definitely try to cultivate for myself - when nannying, when writing, when buying coffee at the local coffee shop... it's about being alert to the story of your own days.
6) You're a big advocate for building other women up and championing them. How important do you think it is to have a female support network to bounce ideas off and turn to when you need a bit of perspective?
Women are the loves of my life. Men are great for so much, but women? It's women who I call in times of both celebration, and need. We speak a language blokes just don't understand - full of extra details and emotional nuances. It's so important to support other women, because really and truly other women are not the competition. I have so much time for sharing the work of women who I admire and love. THAT SAID. My bug bear is that fake "Twitter love" a few women give, under the guise of support. I HATE that whole "love this bb xx" response to posts or Tweets - thoughtless, empty "praise". It's so transparent when it's being done to somebody with 700,000 followers and the person just wants to be noticed, or get a "follow back". I hope I demonstrate support with a little more depth than that. I try to, anyway. If you're gonna champion someone, do it properly, right? And don't expect anything in return. It's nice to be nice.
7) Do you have any writing rituals or things you do to help you get the inspiration flowing? And did the way you approach writing change when you were working on the book?
All I need is a big table at a good height and a pair of headphones. Somewhere to charge my MacBook, because I can go all day when I get started. Space, mostly - when I have physical space around me I get space in my imagination for ideas to start growing. Then I'm off!
8) Finally, what is the best piece of advice that you could share with me and my readers?
I think to just do it your way. Focus on you. Be inspired by people treading a similar path but ultimately nobody will ever do it like you do. And - don't be "on" all the time. Take breaks. Create less, but with more to it. Ignore the pressure to be "go, go, go". It's those people who will burn out. Take your sweet, precious time. I promise you, you're coming home to yourself.