In this episode I speak to author Laura Jane Williams. We chat about:
- The ups and downs of work
- Her experiences with anxiety and mental health
- Giving yourself the recognition you deserve
- When your life is “amazing” on the outside but inside you’re struggling
- The complexities of adulthood
Chloe: Hello, and welcome to the comedy podcast. This is your host Chloe Brotheridge. I am a coach. I’m a therapist and the author of the Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl. I welcome you to this podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Thanks for being here. I’m talking to the wonderful, brilliant Laura Jane Williams. Laura Jane Williams is an author. She has written several books. The latest of which is called Our Stop. If you’ve read her books or you follow her online, she is just one of these people who has an amazing way of putting words to things that so many of us experience but find it hard to express.
She’s got an incredibly magnetic personality, an amazing way with words and she talks a lot about mental health. We get into discussions about the ups and downs of work and this thing that can happen so often when our life seems really amazing from the outside. Maybe people are congratulating us on how well things are going and yet inside, we’re really struggling. This can happen to so many of us and we chat about this.
We talk about her experiences of her journey with her mental health and anxiety. We talk about why it’s so hard to give yourself recognition for things. She shares a practice and an example of the experiences she’s had where she’s really been able to give herself that recognition. I think in having this discussion, it also gives us, the listeners, the permission to give ourselves recognition as well. We talk about the complexities of adulthood and just get into that whole topic, which I think all of us will be able to relate to.
I love this conversation with Laura. I think you’re going to love it as well and get loads from it. So, I just want to let you know that my amazing, if I do say so myself, confidence challenge is coming up at the end of February 2020. I would love you to join us. It’s completely free. It’s a five-day challenge. I am confident that if you join us, you will notice a change in your life and how you feel.
Here’s what Michelle said, someone who joined the last on that around there. She said, “This challenge gave me the courage to go out of my comfort zone and try something new. It also gave me the nudge I needed to reach out to some old friends and reconnect. More importantly, it’s made me realize I’m not alone. I now understand it’s okay to be open, honest and vulnerable.” So many people have said this from this free challenge that I run, they met new friends. They took action that they wouldn’t have taken before. They learned things about themselves.
They took a step outside of their comfort zone and I would love all of these things for you and more. You can sign up for free if you head to my website calmer-you.com/confidence. Pop your email address in there and I’ll send you all the details about the challenge. That’s calmer-you.com/confidence and I hope to see you there. Let’s get into the interview with Laura Jane Williams. Welcome, Laura, thank you so much for joining me. How are you today?
Laura Jane Williams: I’m good. Thank you. How are you?
Chloe: I’m good. I’m good. I’ve really been looking forward to speaking to you. I love your writing. I read Ice Cream for Breakfast when it came out and I just love the way you write. You’re so funny. You’re so smart, so caring. I know you must hear from people all the time that they just feel so loved I think by your writing and the way that you help people to feel like they’re not alone. So, I just wanted to say thank you so much for everything that you write.
Laura Jane Williams: Thank you. That’s a very, really — that makes me feel really emotional. I really receive that because I’m in a lot of fiction writing right now and going draft after draft. Everything they say about the creative journey on a project that minute on minute you can think, “Oh my God, this could be the best thing I’ve ever written,” and 20 seconds later you go, “Well, this is just a pointless waste of my time, of the publishers time, of the readers time. This could be the worst book ever written in the history of books.” It’s not normal and healthy to sit by yourself and write all of those words. It’s certainly play, it does, it plays with your mind and being right in the depths of my next book now, having somebody be so kind is just like, “Oh, thanks.”
Chloe: That’s so nice. I know that. Now that and I know you’ve spoken about this before, and lots of writers talk about this, how there are so many ups and downs when you’re in that creative process. It’s so easy to think that it should be easy. I should be confident of this now, but actually, for almost everyone, if not everyone, there is that kind of those big ups and downs and that self-doubt that comes in, I think.
Laura Jane Williams: I think it’s interesting. I just took on a last-minute commission for a magazine. It was, I think — was it 600 words? 800 words. Call it 800 words. I love the editor that asked me if I had time to contribute and if it were anybody else, I would have said no. But because it was this particular editor, I was like, “Yes, I would love to do the story for you. Set aside a weekend let’s Boogie.” On writing, so what I am — I’m on a book a year. So, I’m writing and now it’s fiction back to back basically, in order to sort of get ahead of myself. That is 80,000 words that you’re kind of wrestling with. Then to go to 100 words — you doubled space it, that’s two pages before they can sit side by side on the computer screen was like, “Oh, my God, I can see everything that I’m dealing with.”
It just felt like such a more manageable beast, but I remember my first commission three years ago, four years ago, for the same magazine and the edits, and we went back and forth, then I wasn’t quite giving her what she wanted. Is it last year I worked with this editor again? She said, “Gosh, congratulations on how far your writing has come.” At the time, I was so mortified like, “Oh my God, was I crap when I first worked with her and now she’s like, thumbs up less crap.”
Then now doing this like 800 word piece for her and seeing it I was like, “I think I’ve actually –” I’m using muscles I’ve built. I think I actually have got a hold on this and I can do it and I do know how to tell an 800 word story. Maybe one day I’ll feel that way about the 80,000 words, I don’t know. Let’s see how many books it takes because Lord knows that it’s taken 10 years of twice a week writing 800 words post for a blog, for Instagram or magazines, but I feel like I might be getting somewhere with the shorter stuff at least. That’s really nice.
Giving yourself credit
I really had to take a moment and say, “Good. Thank you, babe. You are actually getting somewhere. You need to recognize this moment of totally enjoying putting this.” I made myself cry. Who knows? It could be because I’m in the middle of book writing, but I actually cried writing this piece. Natasha said that she cried when she received it. She didn’t have any edits for me. Didn’t have any notes. I just thought, “You know what Laura, take a second to pat yourself on the back for all of the work and all of the ways I’ve shown up for myself and failed and failed publicly.” Sharing your writing, that’s a public act, and it’s not all going to be brilliant.
I just thought, “Yeah. Own this moment.” Then I went back to trying to wrestle with the 80,000 words, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish. But a couple of Saturdays ago, there was a real moment of, “Yeah, your evolution is happening. Compliment to you.”
Chloe: I love that. I think it’s so important to give ourselves credit and to look back and see actually, “You know what, I have come a long way,” and to really give ourselves credit. I hope people listening are considering doing this themselves and giving themselves a pat on the back as well.
Laura Jane Williams: Yeah, I hope so too.
Chloe: I love to ask people this question and you sort of touched on it a little bit. I have to ask you the question. How are you really?
Laura Jane Williams: How am I really? I’m better now. I think this has been one of the most stretchy, our mutual friend Lucy Sheridan uses that word stretchy. This has been the stretchiest year I think of my life with totally incredible highs. These moments of realization of, “God I’m getting somewhere and I’m building this career of my dreams and things are really working.” I don’t have a conventional — I’m not married with two children and a house that I own. I’ve traveled so much, and I’ve screwed up so much. I’ve quit so much and I’ve made mistakes and just really feeling good.
Life is not binary
Then, of course, that isn’t life. Life is not a binary – right now is good, right now is bad. The older I get, the more I have to surrender to the fact that great things personally, professionally, can unfold at the same time, as it’s a total shit show. Over the summer was a very difficult period: family illness and some confusion. As my first novel came out in the summer, Our Stop that came out in August. I can see in the photographs for that whole month, that behind the scenes my whole world was burning.
I was not prepared to document that publicly because I’m trying not to do that anymore because I don’t think it’s a helpful thing. But very much it was so interesting to me, every friend that I met, every phone call, every FaceTime, every coffee, every dinner, and people would be like, “Oh my God, your book is everywhere. You must be over the moon. I saw somebody waiting on the chew. You’re on book tour. You’re doing this.” I’m like, “Yeah, but babe, I need to tell you people are poorly. I’m really confused about this thing.” They would just have absolutely no idea.
I think people potentially see what they want to see. I don’t think your friends especially are rooting for the sadness in your eyes, “How is she really?” They see you fulfilling a dream and they’re just so stoked for you. It was so interesting to me to be living in this juxtaposition of professional fulfillment and outward success. Then coming home and having to deal with just life. The more openly I talked about this over the coffee dates, over the dinners, over the voice notes, over the Face Times, whatever, the more I understand that that’s just being human. That’s just being I think 30 something as well.
Advice to my younger self
Somebody asked me recently in a podcast what advice I would give to my younger self. I was like, “I would tell her drink more. Shag more. Stay out there on the Riviera being irresponsible more,” because I had no idea of the complexities of true adulthood, which was a huge privilege in so many ways. But now I’m here and just like, “Wow.” I’m coming out the other side of it now. There’s a lot of resolution happening, but that’s why they call them growing pains because they can hurt. It has been a painful, painful summer.
Chloe: I think that’s such a good reminder just that —
Laura Jane Williams: Is that what you meant when you said, “How are you really?”
Chloe: Absolutely, yeah.
Laura Jane Williams: “You know what? It’s been a bit shit babe.”
Chloe: Absolutely. No, absolutely. I recently started hosting a women’s circle with a group of friends. One of the things that we ask, everyone answers this question, how are you really? It comes from a book called The Millionth Circle by Jean Shinoda Bolen, who wrote a book about women’s circles. It is designed to actually get you to think about, “How am I really?” Because we’re so used to saying, “Oh, yeah, I’m fine,” or “My book’s doing really well.” I think it’s a great but actually it kind of gets you to go below the surface. So, thank you so much for sharing that and just hearing you own that pain and that difficulty is very, I think it’s us permission to own the difficulties in my own lives as well. Thanks for saying that.
Laura Jane Williams: I mean, my experience of communicating directly with the people that love me, I have friends not just all over the country, they’re all over the world. I traveled so much in my 20s that’s how it panned out for me. There’s not a group of five women that all live in the same town and we all get together every Friday. That’s just not how my friendships work and that works for me. That’s so interesting. How that is permission for the other person to go, “Oh my God. Well, this is what’s happening with me,” and it’s not like bonding over trauma. I think that would be very dysfunctional, but just talking through the complexities of existing.
What I will say is — I’m very lucky to have surrounded myself with very empathetic, pragmatic friends as well who understand the practice of gratitude. I think that’s definitely a huge — there was an element of just time. There was nothing. Certain things behind the scenes, there was nothing I could do, which I’m a doer. If you are at a buffet and there’s not enough knives, I’m already in the kitchen getting them. If I want to publish a book, I’m already writing the proposal. I’m a doer. So, to be in a situation of pure surrender of like, “There’s nothing I can do,” just time has to pass.
In that time, coming to grips with like the gratitudes in my life is gratitude can be very much vilified and made fun of if you’re in an abusive marriage with not a penny to your name and how you’re going to let — you’re not going to sit on the bathroom floor finding things to be thankful for, I appreciate that. But in my position of relative comfort and privilege, I think it is a must. It’s a requirement to practice gratitude. That is very much what is getting me through. That I do have this unconventional, non-traditional life that is very flexible, and means I can create my own paths moving forward. I’ve got immense gratitude for that. I’ve also got immense sympathy for anyone but myself in the position over the summer of not feeling that way. I just had to let time pass.
Chloe: Do you have any specific structure to that gratitude? Do you kind of follow a process with it or is that something that you weave in to your sort of every day?
Laura Jane Williams: At this point it is very much woven through. I’m sat here with a cup of tea and a burger my own wild basil candle burning at half past 11:00 on a weekday and this is my job, this is my life is like, “Let’s just take a sack and be like, ‘Fuck, this is nice, man.’” It sounds too cutesy to almost be real. There are certain people that I follow online: Chelsea Fagan is one of them, [inaudible 00:18:47] Maxwell is another, Bethany Rutter is another. Who are just like, “Look at this perfectly toasted bagel I’m about to consume.” It’s like joy is everywhere.
Again, the ultimate gap being on book tour this summer and this book far surpassing what, I mean literally, what anybody had expected. My publisher is like, “Well done.” Just to sit and be like, “Oh my God, these people have shown up for me.” I can see in these pictures that I am not myself, but people showed up to hear me talk and discuss ideas. That’s incredible. Stopping myself in the middle of something to go, “This is nice.”
Chloe: Definitely. I wanted to ask you about your second book, Ice Cream for Breakfast. Every now and again, I do eat ice cream for breakfast, and I always think of you. You always pop into my mind. Can you share a bit about what that book is about and your experience of releasing that into the world?
Book: Ice cream for breakfast
Laura Jane Williams: After my first book came out, Becoming, I got what has since been labeled millennial burnout. I actually sought out medication and therapy. It wasn’t depression so much, it was just like anxiety. I found it incredibly anxious creating my first book, releasing my first book into the world and then knowing what to do next. I became a part-time children’s nanny. I needed to pay the bills. If you can remove that, okay, my rent and food is paid for worry, that creates a little bit of breathing room again in that position of privilege that I am in, that’s all it takes. For me, to tick some boxes is, “Right, 12 pounds an hour, 30 hours a week the rent is paid for. Excellent.”
I started nannying these children and I think I had a huge amount of embarrassment that I was a published author, so wasn’t supposed to be like swatting about at authorial events and rubbing shoulders at awards — being at book awards. Anybody who has been published, I don’t know if you feel this way, but I think a lot of us — five books a year from debuts explode. The rest are, we are midlist authors. We do our best. It’s midlist author’s aware publishers make their money, but I just had no idea. I thought I was going to be the next Lena Dunham and then I was not, but also I didn’t want to be because I suddenly felt so exposed and didn’t want everybody looking at me.
It was very Yin and Yang, bizarre feeling and situation. I want the validation, but I don’t want you to look at me long enough to decide if you’re going validate me is where I was at. I just felt so uncomfortable in my skin literally, but also on a spiritual level. I was just totally empty. Nannying these kids and with my embarrassment, I had taken my social media community on the journey of telling my stories on a blog to starting to get paid for my writing, to finding an agent, to the book coming out.
I had an incredible amount of embarrassment around also needing to pay my rent with something else and I thought, well, I can either hide it or own it. I did make it clear: I am nannying these girls. I didn’t betray any kind of confidentiality. They didn’t feature on my grade or anything. There were no faces. There were no identifying details, anything like that, but I remember the very first nanny nice kids and she was six at the time the youngest, sleeping at home [inaudible 00:23:05] and saying, “Will we go and play on the sinks Laura?” You just go nothing out, oh my God. Nothing else in this moment matters more than playing on these strings and that was such a release.
I’ve been so in my own head and it was such a released me. My non-fiction publisher who had done Becoming — Becoming come out in June, July, August, September, four and a half months after Becoming came out and I swore off writing for a bit. I was this part-time nanny, the publisher reached out and said, “We think there’s something in this experience. What do you think?” I’m like, “Oh my God, you’re inviting me to write my second book?” I never could have anticipated that taking a step back and nannying then would have like formed part of my life as a writer. I thought I was stepping back.
I have since learned that actually it is the living — what is this quote? On my wall, I have a quote that says “The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression.” I think I had put writing ahead of everything else. Then the moment that I put living, satiating my spirit, again, very privileged position to be able to sit gazing at my navel said, “I think my spirit reserves are a little low, what can I do?” I appreciate that, but that is my truth. That is my journey. As soon as I started to live, and then for them to come to me and say, “What do you think? Can you put together a quick proposal of how you think that would look if we looked at like what children have taught you and maybe what that can teach all of us?”
I remember I put that proposal together the week of the US election when Trump was getting elected. It felt like the hardest thing in the world. I remember on the Monday, dropping the kids off at school, sitting in a cafe, and then — did I wake up on the Thursday or the Friday and Trump had been elected? It was like, “Oh my God, thank god my spirit feels a little bit stronger because this also feels like the end of the world.” I told myself I was going to tell you the short version of this story, but I did not. Spoiler alert.
Chloe: I’m loving it. I’m loving it.
Laura Jane Williams: Then I basically said, “Well, what if it’s for 40 little lessons that I’ve learned?” That way I can explore all the different facets without kind of giving away any personality of the kids or betraying any trust or position of responsibility boundaries. They bought it and it came out in April. I call them my Irish twins, there were nine months between these two books, which for a woman who was medicated and in therapy and gaining weight from finding her only joy in cupcakes is not bad going. I think I was able to do that because it was radical self-care that I undertook.
From the moment just before Becoming came out when I knew — I mean, the story I always tell is walking down the street in Stoke Newington, a part of London I adore and not feeling the sun on my face. I remember walking and thinking, “The sun is out and you cannot feel this on your face.” Then I remember calling my mom crying and crying and talking about mental health. She was saying, “What are you on about mental health? What’s mental health?” I mean, this is three years ago, somebody saying, “What’s mental health?” If you think about how far the conversation has come along in those three years where we’ve even what Royals championing what mental health is. My mother is an incredibly empathetic and thoughtful woman, but mental health was mental health, you’re not mental. That’s fascinating to me.
It’s incredible that any dialogue around people not being able to feel how they feel because, well, you’ve got this and you’ve got that and this compare and despair game that we have, the policing of each other. I will never not use my voice to talk about how it can be difficult day on day. I don’t know what it’s like to be a rice farmer in a third world country living on pennies a day. I can’t speak to that experience. That doesn’t then mean I can’t speak to my own experience whilst having empathy, whilst having awareness. Yeah, Ice Cream for Breakfast, I credit it — those girls brought me back to life. They did.
Chloe: It’s important point now that a lot of people tell me that they feel kind of guilt or shame about feeling depressed or anxious despite the privilege that they might have. Actually that reminder that it’s all relative. You feel how you feel, so don’t add an extra layer of bad feeling on top of making yourself wrong for feeling how you feel.
Laura Jane Williams: I think the most powerful thing that we can say to one another is, “That sounds really shit. I’m really sorry.” Because half the time that’s all we want. I’ve long said we just want to be seen. We just want to be heard. You don’t need the answers. You don’t need to waste a judgment. If somebody tells you, “This feels hard,” sometimes all they need to hear is, “I hear you and I see you,” and that makes it less hard. That’s it. That can be the magic answer.
Chloe: Don’t say at least you’re not a rice farmer in…
Laura Jane Williams: Yeah.
Chloe: Not so helpful.
Laura Jane Williams: Which wasn’t it in Eat Pray Love, where and I know this book has also been vilified. White woman explores the world to find herself but so many others found permission in that book to do something other than what was expected of us. She tells the beautiful story about her friend, the psychoanalyst who worked with Cambodian refugees. The Cambodian refugees weren’t talking about the horrors that they had seen and bore witness to. They were talking about well, “I met this man at the refugee camp and do you think he loves me? I think he’s going to marry my sister.” Those real just, “Do you hear me? Do you see me? Am I loved?” I thought that was like a beautiful observation to make.
Chloe: I love that. A theme that kind of comes up in Ice Cream for Breakfast is around play. Why do you think that’s so important and why is that so missing from so many of our lives do you think?
Laura Jane Williams: I’m currently reading Ash Ambirge The Middle Finger Project book. It comes out in February next year in the US and in the UK. I’ve long followed her work. I feel very privileged to have a preview copy of this book. She puts in context, this idea of work, work, work, work, work in a way that I have never seen explored before. She links it back to Protestantism, particularly in America, that it went from you don’t need anything to prove your devotion to God. You don’t need anything as long as He exists kind of a poverty of self to prove this devotion to high being. Then Protestantism a rose in popularity and it became, “No. You must work really hard and suffer to prove to God that you love Him. That it’s all for Him.”
Oh my God, I did not appreciate that link with religion and work. I live on the edge of the Peak District, about 15 minutes down the road from the birth of the Industrial Revolution. There’s a clock in the marketplace where you can tell it’s eight o’clock in the morning and we work until six, seven, eight o’clock at night. We follow, if it’s light we work. I think that we are totally devoid of play because where’s the ROI on play? What are your key performance indicators and what’s the return of investment on play?
It’s all about work, work, work, and I love the rhetoric now and the shift in values of works for work’s sake is really sad. It’s really sad. I know it goes hand in hand with a failing economy that millennials have said, “Wait a minute, working to work but I can’t even afford a house now like the boomers could.” We’re going, “Actually, how do I want life to look? What are my values? What is the point of it all? If I’m born and then I die, I want to have a bit of a laugh in the middle.”
So, here we are. I think it’s so weird. We are so deeply entrenched in getting a return on our investment. So, to play and do nothing — even like this idea of the portfolio career or like hyphenated career, coming home and you’re cross stitching them being something that you sell on Etsy, so then you monetize this hobby that was only ever supposed to be a hobby being bad at stuff. Maybe millennials were part of a generation where you even got a medal for taking part.
Actually, some people rise to the top of a particular thing and some people do not. That doesn’t mean that one person has a higher value than another. It just means that they’re good at this thing and you’re less good. For me, yoga is so playful, but I started out doing my yoga teacher training. I eventually left two days before I qualified. There was a man, I mean, what else is there to say? In so many ways, I think I’m so grateful that I did walk away from that and I don’t have a qualification in it.
Fun and play
Now, I am somebody that has just done yoga for six, seven years, the best part of a decade rather than, “Yes, I’ve done yoga for the rest of the decade, and I’m a qualified yoga teacher.” Why do I need to certify my hobby? What is it in me –? Is it a validation thing? Why do I want the validation? I just want to be able to do something for the sake of doing it. I did do watercolor for a hot second. I went to an event that my Friend Lizzie, Elizabeth Scarlet designs. She was talking us through her design process and then invited us to do some water coloring and then we came home with the paints and the pad.
You can’t be on your phone when your water coloring. For a long time, I didn’t even have a big proper TV. So, just being there with my brush strokes looking terrible. I am a bad artist, but it was fun.
Chloe: It sounds like we do need to reconnect with the things that are just for fun. There doesn’t need to be any purpose or certificate at the end of it or even being good at it or getting approval, doing it just for the joy of doing it.
Laura Jane Williams: Maybe that comes back from childhood. Now I think about it like in gymnastics. We go to gymnastics every week but I still did my KitKat badges and I got my bronze award and my silver award and you know why we do that. We do that so that you collect the certificates and you get better and better. Then on your university applications, you can say “I’m a well-rounded individual. Here’s the proof. Keep on that exam treadmill.”
I have long lamented at 14, getting kids to pick 10 subjects. At 16, they drop that down to four subjects. At 18, they pick one subject to go to university, and then well, you spent all that money? What is it now? 50 grand. So, you better get into the world of work. It’s politicized control of the masses. Higher Education is a politicized control of the masses. You should only enter it willingly and with awareness and packing kids off in droves at 18 to get in that kind of debt, to set them on a path to work, work, work is gross to me.
Chloe: Such a good point. I’ve seen something, some kind of internet meme going around about I think it was like five signs you’ve internalized capitalism. One of them is thinking that you have to be productive all the time and rest isn’t productive. I think maybe that links back to things that you’re saying.
Laura Jane Williams: You know who’s good for that is not ministry on Instagram.
Chloe: Okay, yes, I’ve heard of them.
Laura Jane Williams: Big fan of Nap ministry, who are very much like, if you need a nap, take a nap because the world will keep turning. I do it. I judge other people for being lazy because I can sit here and kind of theorize over all the reasons why, but I still have to catch myself and rewire deliberately that thought. I’m a victim of it too or maybe a willing participant. I don’t know, but definitely it has bitten me also.
Chloe: Yeah, I think that’s an interesting one and just inviting people listening to think about if we’re judging other people for being “lazy”. We also judge ourselves for that. So, by having compassion for other people, also developing that compassion for ourselves that it’s okay to do things that are not productive. In fact, rest. I always say to people rest is productive because you need to rest otherwise, you’re going to be rubbish. You’re going to feel rubbish other times in your life.
Laura Jane Williams: I think don’t confuse rest with — sometimes it’s productive rest to just sit and binge watch Netflix for a whole weekend, but I think we need to define what rest is without making people feel like, “Oh my god, I’m not even resting properly. There’s rules around how I rest,” but inviting. I certainly have to be mindful about inviting myself to what is active, useful rest? What is passive consumption of 10-hour long episodes of Succession where actually you’re not even paying that much attention because you’re also on your phone and also ordering a pizza. How can you be deliberate with the refueling? It’s also forgiving ourselves that if we want to watch 10 episodes of Succession in a row. It’s a hard one, isn’t it?
Chloe: It is, yeah, thank you for making that distinction. Sometimes one of my friends talks about what is most nourishing right now? What’s most nourishing? Sometimes not going to bed at eight o’clock and watching Netflix is going to be the nourishing thing and sometimes going to yoga is going to be the nourishing thing and it might just depend on the day.
Laura Jane Williams: That is a beautiful word. Nourish like nourishment. That is a beautiful word. It reminds me of a plant. “Oh, my plant needs to be moved to the window. Oh, my plant is thirsty.” Nourishment, that’s a great show.
Chloe: Do you have any advice for people listening who are maybe struggling with anxiety? Well, probably everyone listening to this is going to be struggling with anxiety, but is there any kind of advice that you would have for them?
Laura Jane Williams: I think it would be trust. Trust yourself and trust and how you feel. I think, I can’t speak for others, but certainly my own experience. I’ve often known on a more cellular level what the appropriate thing to do or not do is. Then get bogged down with letting my brain trick me of what I should do and what other people are saying about me and how everybody else is [inaudible 00:42:25] out. Anxiety can be so hard because so much of it relies on betrayal of your brain. Betraying you is what the actual truth of your reality is.
Coming back to yourself with forgiveness and trust, for me is an antidote to the kind of anxiety that historically I have had and continue to get. I appreciate it’s not that straightforward for so many people. I appreciate it’s not that straightforward for many people and the betrayal of your brain makes you think that you don’t deserve self-kindness or trust. That’s the catch 22, isn’t it? I do believe in talking therapy.
I had talking therapy to a charity who did it means tested. The fact that I was a part-time children’s nanny meant that I paid less than other people that I’ve known that have paid 100 pounds an hour. I know wasting less on the NHS are despicably long. I know that advent of your mind therapist now, but yeah, talk therapy is a huge thing for me. Just the acknowledgement that your brain is betraying you, tricking you. What is your top line advice? If I came to you and was like, I just feel paralyzed with my next step, what would you say to me?
Chloe: I have found for people that it’s very often a combination of a lot of little things that makes a difference. It might be for lots of people, they don’t tell people how they’re feeling. So, that would be a really good start, or it might be looking at self-care and really making that more of a priority. It might be finding some kind of meditation that works for them. I think that’s such an important point that you just made there about that thing of trust. I really resonate with that and recognize how I kind of put myself down because I felt like I couldn’t trust my brain.
I use that to shame myself into thinking I’m not good. I think just that distinction of actually recognizing that but actually having compassion for yourself at the same time, and knowing that actually, that isn’t the real part of you. The anxious thoughts, the distorted thoughts is not actually the real us. That actually there’s a deeper part of us that we can trust and kind of coming back to that. So, thank you for putting that into words. It’s something that I’ve actually thought about a lot, but you’ve articulated in a really nice way. Thank you.
Can you share — moving on from that topic, I just wanted to ask you to share a little bit about your latest book, which I have just started. I’m saving it for a trip that I’m taking a couple of weeks. I think it’s going to be amazing o read then. Can you say a little bit about that?
Laura Jane Williams: Yeah, are you talking about Our Stop?
Chloe: Yes, yes.
The life diet
Laura Jane Williams: I only made the distinction because I did a short audio project similar to Ice Cream for Breakfast called The Life Diet, which is kind of like my manifesto of curating space in your life. Yes. So, Our Stop is my first novel, my third book, but my first novel. I’m actually trained in creative writing, so I’m trained in fiction. Very exciting to have my first novel out there. It is about Nadia Fielding and Daniel Weismann. They meet through the misconnections section of a London newspaper. Nadia spots an advert that basically sounds like her and ultimately, there’s a note back to Daniel and then it’s game on. They’re writing to each other, but the course of true love never did run smooth. Will they, won’t they finally get to meet?
I’m a romantic cynic. So, it surprises nobody more than me to write a rom com, but I truly do believe what you focus on expands. I am so proud that instead of sort of a piffy takedown of you do cynical millennial culture that I was able to just step into optimism and love and it made me feel optimistic. I hope that is what readers get from it as well. I have had some very kind notes and emails and people — I think somebody on Twitter just the other day said that he had sent a misconnectional inspired by Our Stop, like why not?
Laura Jane Williams: Yeah, and that’s just so beautiful to me. I’m proud of it and I’m proud to put something hopeful out there. It also has a bite, it covers — there are elements of covering consent and drug culture and abuse of past relationships. There are some LGBT themes in there, but it is also this like classic boy meets girl story. It’s just boy can’t get over the grief of losing his father and girl is very cynical about how good men can truly be.
Chloe: Amazing. I hope people will check that out. I was reading the reviews and you’ve got so many amazing reviews of people saying they started reading it and couldn’t stop and just had to finish it kind of late into the night.
Laura Jane Williams: Yeah, that’s such an amazing feeling. I remember with Becoming, somebody telling me they’d read it in 24 hours. I think it was a review. I don’t read my reviews anymore. I don’t know what people are saying about Our Stop unless they like directly tagged me in something. Or sometimes my publisher forwards like, “Have you seen this? Have you seen that?” I don’t read my own reviews. It’s just why would I? You don’t hang a painting in an art gallery and then leave room for people to write underneath what they make of it.
The painting is same thing like it, love it, let’s move on. That’s how I feel. I’ve turned comments off on my Instagram. I’m just not interested in feedback unless you want to come directly to me in my inbox and like have a discussion. That’s great, but holding out for like what people think, that’s just not for me. I’ve got like more books to write. It would just paralyze me with fear, I think.
Also, that thing of like, “I want to be validated, but I don’t want to be seen.” I just want to remove myself from the conversation. Anyway, all of this to say, somebody said they had read Becoming in 24 hours. I was like, that book took like five years of my life and you read into 24 hours. Like, “Oh my God, how disrespectful.” Now I understand that it’s my job as the author to work really hard so that the reader doesn’t have to. That they can just power on through what happens next? What happens next? What happens next? I did not understand that even just a couple of years ago. I am truly honored if people have heard about it.
I’ve been photographed on a lot of holidays with people. That’s always an honor to be read on a sun lounger or for people that haven’t gotten away. I’ve been red on a rainy day like today when their kids have been home from school. It’s a privilege. It is.
Chloe: That’s so lovely. Thank you so much for speaking to me. I love everything that you’re about. Thank you for sharing so honestly, and with so much love. Where can people find out a bit more about you if they want to check you out?
Laura Jane Williams: Can I just say I feel like I’ve been really ineloquent about Our Stop. I’m so far into the next book that [inaudible 00:51:54] memory. I’m like, “What did I write in that book that came out, oh, three months ago?” How embarrassing. If people wanted to find out more, I’m on social media as Laura Jane author. My website with my bio and bits about my book is laurajaneauthor.com and I’m also on this podcast.
Chloe: Brilliant. I’ll put all those links in the show notes for everyone as well so you can click on those. Thank you so much.
Laura Jane Williams: Thank you.
Chloe: Thank you so much for listening. I really hope that you gained a lot from this episode. Come on over to Instagram and let me know what are you taking from this episode? Find me at Chloe Brotheridge. I would love it if you would leave me a review in the podcast app, on iTunes. Subscribe to the podcast. Leave me a rating and is there someone in your life that would really benefit from this podcast? You can let them know by sharing this podcast. I’d be so, so grateful. I’m just wishing you a wonderful week ahead. Sending you loads of love. Hopefully you’ll tune in again and I’ll see you soon.