Sometimes books just come along when you need them most, to vill the void that you've been in denial about, or feel all too keenly. I go round and round in cycles about the blogging industry as a whole - loving it and wanting to make it my career, doing blogger outreach for brands, and going to so many events that I think even professional event-goer Daisy Lowe is starting to recognise me (going by the awkward smile she gave me recently, a "I've seen you around but... yikes, we don't know each other, too late to back out of this smile now" kind of smile). Then other times I start to get jaded by it, sad at all the unnecessary bitching, the "who is getting what and why that's not fair because they're shit" attitude bandied about, and the cold commercial hearts at the centre of (some) bloggers and PRs - sometimes I think what's the point in making friends with people who literally only care about money and status. I started Bloggeration as a community building network for bloggers that's far removed from exploitation and making coin, unlike other blogging magazines and 'community groups', I think you know the biggies I mean - especially the one where you have to get followers and all you're doing is driving traffic to a website that honours, awards and promotes big bloggers. It's great when women (and men!) write for the pleasure and personal power it gives them, how they make sense of their world, and express themselves, and it's even better when bloggers lift each other up too. I see so much of the good side of the blogging community, so I don't know why some blogger outreach I did recently made me sad. I asked a small blogger if she'd like to review a set of lipsticks for a brand, which would be gifted to her. She didn't reply at all at first, and when I followed up she said she 'doesn't have time to do any unpaid reviews at the moment'. I just stared at this for ages, I had one of those - what the hell is blogging all about spirals of woe and doubt - cheered only by most other bloggers I contacted, including several of the UK's biggest beauty bloggers saying they'd love the freebies to try out.
If you're wondering what all this waffle means, I'm trying to say, I've felt a bit lost and Laura Jane Williams has saved me twice now. When I went to her IRL Panel earlier this year I was in a full "what's wrong with all the bad feeling amongst bloggers, can't we just be creative and happy?" huff, and this joyous panel of powerful, funny, intelligent women put together by Laura and fellow writer, Emma Gannon, was just what I needed to think, for god's sake, what a waste of time to focus of the negs - I choose to leave here feeling inspired and Rocky-style pumped up. The pumping lasted a good while, but the rude lipstick-declining blogger incident led to another existential crisis, wondering what it all means and... if I stopped trying to stick up for bloggers would anyone else care that there are so many people out there exploiting creative, hopeful people (yes, of course there are lots of people passionate about this issue too). I've never been a blogger who thinks we need to 'get back to what blogging is', and all exclusively write memoir-style posts, I happily earn money from my blog, and support anyone else who does too. Not really knowing what my beef with rude bloggers and PRs was, I started turning down work from brands: outreach, copywriting, social media 'stuff', and I started looking at my own blog in a new light. I wondered if bloggers like Laura and Emma have it sussed - have a discussion, even if it's with yourself on your blog, about what it all means, and do it unapologetically, with little fanfare, minimal sponsorship (if any), and with almighty passion.
And so, I was saved again by Laura Jane Williams when a preview copy of her first book, Becoming, arrived at my door. A powerful memoir ideal for anyone feeling a little lost, a little jaded, it's the perfect way to feel like you're not alone with these feelings, that there's other young women recovering from disillusionment and getting stronger out there too. Laura's doubt comes from a very different place, she's reeling from the shock and betrayal of her partner and best friend running off together, and embarks on a round the world trip filled with meaningless sex, men with 'exhaust-pipe' like appendages, and an extended stay in a convent. The book is sad, and funny (oh, so funny), and you want to give Laura a cuddle, as well as probably go on a night out with her. Becoming has been misrepresented in some reviews as a raunchy sex memoir, an Eat, Pray, Love for millennials (shudder), but it's more about fear and self-loathing, of breaking down and getting up slowly, finding moments of delicious clarity whilst swirling in a sea of self-doubt. It's a brave first book, written well (not a surprise for those of us who are fans of Laura's blog), and if I could, I would give a copy to every one with a broken heart, or anyone currently in a swirl of confusion and doubt. But also to anyone who loves juicy, funny autobiographies, written by awesome women.