December 17, 2018

Thank you, next

This time last year, I pressed ‘send’ on 70,000ish words of my book The Multi-Hyphen Method. I went out for Christmas drinks that evening and felt so insecure like a layer of skin was missing. What if my editor hates it? You can never moan at a party about being a writer though. It is a bad look. It’s best to just join in the fun and feel wildly dramatically insecure in the privacy of your own brain. Keep it within those four walls because you’re lucky to get paid to write, so just sshhh. Then when you get home, lie in bed making a list in your head of all the reasons why you really shouldn’t call yourself a proper writer yet.

It was a book I’d wanted to write for ages but wasn’t sure if anyone would find it interesting apart from me. I’d always been obsessed with multi-hyphenates: (Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life and fashion magazine editor; Naomi Alderman, a game designer-author-professor; Adam Kay, a scriptwriter-musician-writer; Nora Ephron, a director-columnist-scriptwriter). I loved reading about people’s ‘hyphens’ and analysing how they joined up together. I then went on the hunt for real-life stories. To me, it looked like a rich and exciting life. Imagine designing your own career from scratch. Like the explosion of Gen Z polyamory, it seemed bizarre to settle for one thing forever.

I left Condé Nast in early 2016, because I was worried about the future of magazines. I remember searching on Amazon, looking for books about living a ~portfolio life~ but hardly any books spoke to me, and they all seemed like they’d been written in the 80s and/or belonged in a dusty classroom. Since leaving Condé I’d been making money through multiple income streams, navigating a new way of working, and realising that (on the good days) the lifestyle was pretty amazing. My mental health was so much better – my god it was scary at first – but being able to merge my many different interests, skills and not put too much pressure on Having One Job meant I was less scared about the future. If the future was ‘unknown’ then at least I had a few different options to pull from. At least I couldn’t be made redundant from all six ‘hyphens’ at once. The world is changing so fast, we might as well capitalise on trends as we go. I began to feel less shame about the art of online monetisation. I began to feel less shame about making good money full stop.

Validation is a funny thing. In March 2017, Microsoft had cast me in their advert at Universal Studios, wanting to celebrate and showcase ‘the life of a multi-hyphenate’, a woman with ‘many strings to her bow!’ who could talk about using the Spectre laptop, a device that could be used in many different modes. It was a perfect fit, I got to ~experience~ what went into making an actual TV advert and the DOP was Bob Richardson (“he has three Oscars” the make-up artist whispered to me). The whole thing was nuts. I had a gigantic room in the Hollywood W hotel and I was still on a high that I got a free business class trip to LA (and my boyfriend did too) because that is seriously only something I had read about in glittery pastel-coloured books up until then. It was only then, when Microsoft flew me to LA, that I thought ‘maybe there’s a book in this’. (Not about Hollywood; but about multi-hyphen livin’).

The book proposal was called ‘Slashie’ (I know) and was rejected by a well-known publisher. Well weirdly they actually said yes and then avoided my agent’s calls. They could have just said ‘hey sorry we’ve changed our minds’ but instead it turned into this long drawn-out game of cat and mouse. My agent was leaving her job to go and work at a publisher, so was trying her best to get me a deal and wrap it up before she left for her new job. I suppose it was a blessing in disguise now that it didn’t go through, as I found a new brilliant agent who allowed me to go back to the drawing board and make the proposal much better. I recently saw a tweet from Lin Manuel Miranda saying that he had a friend who would say ‘hmm, it feels like your first draft’ when he came to her with a ‘finished’ new song, and he’d go back and re-write it. Those songs then made up the soundtrack to Hamilton. (Please note I am not comparing myself to Lin/Hamilton lol). But it is always, always better when you go away and swallow your ego and re-write. I am so thankful to the people this year who gave me tough love and said ‘this is good but it could be better’.

Anyway, in July this year, the book, with a new name and direction, made it onto the Sunday Times Bestseller chart at number six in the business chart. Seeing my name there, next to nine American men, felt great. I felt almost guilty at how much that moment meant to me. After the rejections, the waiting game, the fact that my previous book didn’t really go much further than my immediate follower circle, it meant so much to have a book Get Out There and do well.

But, sat here writing this a year on, I’m back to feeling exactly how I felt this time last year. First-draft-ing.

I keep having the same mini epiphany over and over; it doesn’t matter what you have done, what you have made, what already looks good on paper – you always, always go right back to the beginning when starting a new project. You are back on the floor. You are back with the blank page. You are back with your biggest insecurities, and laying that first brick again.

That’s the beauty of it I suppose, Having gone through a weird old ride with it, you find yourself asking: ‘shall we do it again?’

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The world of work is changing - so how do you keep up?
You have the ability to make money on our own terms, when and where you want - but where do you start?

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