My life is small—just look at my Instagram feed. Most of the pictures I take are of a book, a notebook, a cup of tea, my poodle, a favourite pen. Most of them are taken in the same room, too—my living room, which I love for its light and tidiness, and where I do most of my work.
When I first noticed this, I felt ashamed. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised: I like it that way.
Last week, I read THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo. Immediately after reading it, I wanted to tidy up using the KonMari method. I started with my clothes. When I dropped a rubbish bag full of shoes, shirts and dresses off at the Hospice Shop, I felt so much lighter. I like owning less stuff. I like opening my drawers and seeing that I have three skirts—three skirts that I love and actually wear.
But this wrestling with smallness—and shame about smallness—doesn’t only pertain to my lifestyle. It also extends to my books. My life is small. My books are small, too. As it stands, the final manuscript for THE TURNAWAY GIRLS is 42,000 words long. When I read about people wracking up 70,000, 90,000, 100,000 words, I feel both awe and disappointment. Disappointment, because I can’t do that. And awe, because, well, have you ever tried to write 100,000 words? It’s A LOT.
Many of the books I love the most are on the shorter side: CORALINE, FLORA AND ULYSSES, SKELLIG, THE GIVER. But this doesn’t stop me from occasionally feeling like my inability to make a story 93, 000 words long is a cataclysmic creative failure.
But then I remind myself: just as my life is the perfect size for me, so are my books. If I work hard at making them what they are meant to be, then their word counts will be just right. No need to stress about it. (This is something I'd like to scrawl on the walls, to remind myself.)
Your job in life is to return to yourself. Find out what you have to offer. Give it freely. As Oprah puts it: “Find a way to be yourself.”
One of the things I have to offer is smallness and simplicity—finding the exact right skirt, and the exact right word.
And I’m okay with that.