‘Just when i get something started I read or hear something, that makes me forget
My confidence or honesty
What are my motives? Are they selfless enough? Are they righteous, righteous enough? Then before I get started,
I get all fucked up’ Remember Who you Are (Team Dresch)
These kind of freak outs never come out of nowhere. Building up somewhere just outside yr peripheral vision. Until something tips you; something tiny, insignificant. And you realise a tap has been leaking for months, the bathroom is now flooded, yr socks are soaking wet, and you are -so-damn-uncomfortable.
Where was I? Oh yeah, freaking out. But don’t worry, only a little.
I think it happened when people started taking me seriously.
‘Important people’ (and we’ll come back to this can of fucking worms). People whose writing I liked. People who I knew, knew their shit. Started coming up to me: ME: and saying crazy nice things about my writing. And when I say crazy nice, I mean CRAZY nice.
But that’s good right? I’m not an idiot, that is good. Luxury Problem: right?
To some extent. The problem is that I started caring. And caring too much. And I’m not stupid enough to know that is starting to change how I write, what I write and who i write for.
Let’s just take a step back here. Right to the beginning. To me, aged 14 (?) in Huddersfield library. I have the masters of the zine I’ve been working on and I am copying them laboriously on the library copier (because I’d be too terrified to go to a printers and anyway i don’t know what i’m fucking doing). It is the most ugly zine you have EVER seen in yr life. Seriously. It is ugly. But it’s also massively important. It contains the stories (including mine) of other teenagers who lived through and recovered from a variety of eating disorders. I did it because I couldn’t not do it. I did it because these stories needed telling. I did it because I wanted to make someone else’s life better. The demand suprised me but the print run was still small. It ended up being copied and given away by other people, people I’ve never even met. This is how I know it mattered, this and the 100’s of letters I received. If you ask me now I will still say that this is the most important thing I have ever done. A thing I never explicitly tied to my name.
Many of us walk a difficult line, between exposure and impact (which we end up assuming is inevitably connected, despite simultaneously knowing that thousands of people can be exposed to utter dirge that does nothing and says nothing and walk away unchanged; and a small number of folks can hear/see/feel something and have their lives blasted to bits, in a good way).
I know other people do this, and they do it damn well. But I’m just not sure I’m strong enough to play this game right now. Or that I will ever want this enough.
What I want is to write well. And I know I have some big work to do on that. There are stories trapped inside me that I have no way of getting out or doing justice to. Yet.
I want to use my ‘gift’ to change the lives (albeit it in a tiny way) of people who, according to the grand scheme of things are ‘not important’.
I’m done trying to make myself look good. Impress other people. It’s shallow and it’s damaging and it makes yr writing souless and empty.
I want to end by talking to you about the most exciting project I’ve been invited to be involved in for a long time; a zine where of a range of super sound activist (?) grown ups write letters to their teenage selves. I want to talk about how I want to distribute that to the queer kids who are struggling coming out, the kids who are fucked up, the kids who are fucking hopeless. Because to some extent we were all these things too. How I am dreaming of this turning into workshops. And how genuinely excited I am about this.
I want to talk to you about that.