Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Relay race

     For S, who is running her own race

     I’m not, never have been, never will be sporty, athletic, or even especially healthy. I skived off as much PE at school as was humanly possible, and the idea of willingly joining a gym is an alien to my mind as a day without coffee and cigarettes. I don’t do fit.

     I have, however, just completed an especially personal endurance event just lately. A really fucking long endurance event that’s taken quite a toll on me physically (lost 15kg, since you don’t ask). And you lot have been through it with me. The ridiculously laboured analogy that occurred to me this morning is that whilst I’ve been running this marathon, you lot [extends arm to encompass blog readers, tweeps, facebook peeps, Mum, friends, The Blondies, and most of all you, yes, you. You know who you are] have run parts of it alongside me, keeping me company along the way as I ran down the miles. Some of you pretty much dragged me over the start line in the early days, and then kept pushing me on when I dropped to my hands and knees and went into reverse. Others have handed me bottles of water as I’ve passed, or given me a bit of kitchen roll to blow my nose in. Some of you have pointed out where the portaloos are. You’ve cheered me past milestones as onlookers, and dragged away those who were trying to sabotage my progress.

     I kind of see you lot as being relay runners, passing the baton on and around, keeping me company and always keeping me moving onwards. And I’ve ticked off those milestones in my head as I’ve passed them. Ending a relationship. Making it through a day without crying. Fighting for what had to be done, telling The Blondies, kicking the motherfucking shit out of Maisie, and navigating the obstacle course that was moving in (it’s six weeks later, and I am becoming increasingly attached to my sofabed). At least one of you has been with me every day, even when I was taking a breather from always running uphill. And you helped to keep me motivated and focussed as I’ve approached the finish line, my eyes finally able to see the prize.

     And the prize is this. Being able to write again. I need to write. It’s not simply something I enjoy (although fuck, YEAH, I do, I love writing, even when it’s painful). No, I mean I need to write, to ease my mind. Something that was hard in the early days was not being able to blog freely. I ended up with a private blog instead, which helped, and no, there is NO way that anyone else is going to read that. I have to write, and I need to. I love to write, and it helps me, and sometimes it helps other people too, maybe if they think something is funny, or honest, or it tells them things they didn’t know, or is just a little reassurance that someone else feels the same.

     I’m not being Bessie Big Bollocks when I say that I don’t write for an audience. That’s not me being wankily airy fairy and pretending to be above nice comments or replies. I honestly don’t write thinking about who might read it when I blog, because if I did, I’d feel too inhibited. But in the days just before this race began, I was, very tentatively, starting to write for other people. One of those is Outline, a local magazine that’s fun and sassy, and cool, and all of the things I’m not. You might have seen me squealing a bit last night that for the very first time, something I’ve written isn’t just words on a screen, but actually physical print. It might not sound much, but to me it’s a small, but important step.

     The other magazine, to which I owe so much, was Standard Issue.

     Yes, the one started by Sarah Millican. I’m part of the gang that is the fairly eclectic, varied, and engaged group of women who contribute articles, and quizzes, and round ups and just… generally write about real stuff like mooncups and being the other mother and home schooling, and [cough] why I love Norwich, an article that gave me an odd mini fame for a few days.

     And as much as you lot have been here with me all this time, so has Standard Issue. The reaction that I had to the article I wrote about Norwich has been another one of you in some ways. It was a reminder that I can write, that I can get my message across with written words, that things I write sometimes resonate with others, and as I focussed on the finish line, the reminder that soon I would be able to write again gave my feet wings.

     I love Standard Issue. I love the ethos, the woman’s mag that is no bullshit, no advertorials, no circle of shame. It’s straight up, feisty and empowering writing by women for women. It’s a fucking inspiration to me, frankly. Principled, passionate and proud, as it deserves to be. You can pretty much sum it up with this video  

     And you know there’s a but coming, because you know there has to be. This stuff doesn’t come for free. It costs money to keep this show on the road/magazine on the internet. And if you don’t accept vast sums of moolah in exchange for your editorial policy soul, then it’s always going to be a struggle. I’m not going to twat about. Standard Issue needs money, to keep going. To give women like me and not like me, a magazine that reflects us as we are in our infinite variety, not the way we’re told to be by the other magazines out there that will tell you the top 10 key aspirational coat themes for this season to make you feel rubbish about yourself.

     And because Standard Issue is just as much about the readers as it is the writers and the articles, this isn’t a one way street. Give them your bloody money and they’ll give you something too (depends how much you can spare, see here for details) But you won’t get something purely in material terms. What you’ll also get is a website that features the best, most brilliant, boldest writing to devour. And now that my endurance event is over, now that you can take my stabilisers off, it’s time for me to take the baton myself and thank you all for getting me here, to a place where I’m not just writing again, but being able to take writing more seriously than I ever could before. You lot did that, just by being here. I’m not good at asking for help, and even worse at accepting it. Plenty of you have offered in the last six months, and I haven’t taken many of you up on your offers. But if you wish you could do something, then please think about joining the Standard Issue gang. You’ll be giving writers like me and not like me a real platform, and more than that, you’ll be giving readers the magazine we all deserve. My race is run, but writing is just beginning.

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