Week 31: The lie-in, the wit and the website

An odd working week, characterised by intermittent illness and a significant amount of time spent in bed. But still, managed to think about the next pay-cheque a bit, with the result that:

  • On Tuesday I interviewed robotics/musician/performer Sarah Angliss for WIRED. This is the third time I’ve interviewed her, and she still blows me away.
  • Was introduced to someone else, through her, who does some very interesting talks. Invited to speak at one of his events.
  • On Wednesday I was the guest at the Women’s Network lunchtime meet-ups at the BBC. It took place in an open-plan office in the building where they film The One Show! I did a quick talk and took a Q&A session.
  • Yesterday I was ill in bed. Half a pitch picked up. Not a whole one, but like I say, I was ill. The video of my five-minute Making Things Fast talk at Ignite London 4 went up.
  • My papers are in but I’ve been too ill to go and get them. I’ve sent Tom to get some today so I can photograph them and get everything up on this special new page. We’ve sorted out payments! You can view some screenshots and buy your issue 2 now.
  • Read & reviewed a book about creativity for the very cool Imperica website.
  • Secret Comedy Website 2011 now works in all browsers. We are moments from the finishing line.
  • Had idea for my Spacetackular talk coming up this month. I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned about running a starship by watching Star Trek TNG.

But my main thoughts occurred during the Women’s Network Q&A thing at the BBC, where I was asked some very interesting questions that I then went on to not answer very well. Here’s what I should have said…

1. Where are the female role models? I mentioned in my talk that a lack of female role models might be one of the reasons women find it difficult to push themselves forward. Someone asked me if I have any important female role models. I’m always going on about how I want to be Simon Cowell, so this was a good question for me. In the end I found myself naming women I know who are inspirational to me and whom I’d like to be more like. Catherine, who was running the event, pointed out that most of the women she knows are settling down with babies and husbands and pursuing a different kind of dream, making it difficult for her to see them as ‘role models’ for her work. Maybe it’s our age, but clearly it is hard to see our goals reflected in the people around us sometimes.

But it occurred to me afterwards that while a role model might be someone with a similar life and aims to yourself, they might simply be someone with a terrific attitude. What I was trying to get across in my talk was that careers don’t define women in the same way they define men. We may not feel valued in the workplace, but this does at least grant us the freedom to indulge in an identity beyond our work. Perhaps that means we can look to friends who’ve given up their jobs and hobbies to see what we find inspiring – even enviable – about them.

2. What have you missed out on? Someone else asked if I felt I’d like to do, or if I ever felt I’d missed out on things (by not having a coherent career, perhaps?) This felt like a very clever question, because it nails the link between ambition and dissatisfaction. When we make choices, they cost us other choices, ergo the older we get, the more doors must close. I suppose the first thing to say here is that writers don’t really have career paths. You could be earning anything, have any amount of responsibility, at any point of your working life. A thousand writers are launched with book deals and scriptwriting competitions, sending them straight into high earnings – but a few months later when the project’s over they might be back waiting tables. I think if I had been looking back at the picture of my working life so far as a career, I might feel it looked a bit mental. But looking at it from above, from the point of view of what direction things might take next, is much more promising. I can do anything I want to – anything might happen – and that’s a very exciting thought.

3. A lot of my genuine, paid work, looks like a hobby. I didn’t really stress this enough as I talked about hobbies segueing into work, but the journalistic stuff I do is both my immense juvenile indulgence and my bread and butter. I have contrived this situation because I feel the incredible pressure of mortality on me every second of the day and I don’t want to waste any time doing things I don’t believe in. I’m only half joking! As I tried to tell the BBC women, I can’t think very far ahead because of this pressure to get things done as soon as possible. It’s childish, probably, but the idea of planning fills me with cold dread – that’s the sound of doors closing in your face. The doors you’ve already passed are irrelevant, it’s the doors laid out in front that you need to worry about.

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