On still being a writer, among other things

My brother sent me an email the other day.

“I know you’re busy with the Quiet store but remember you are a writer. Don’t forget that!”

I guess I need to explain.

I am a writer. I always will be. It’s what I have always wanted to do. I dreamt of writing a book. Last year, that dream became a reality. But that doesn’t mean it just ends there.

As well as writing a book, I’ve wanted to do lots of things. Hundreds of things. Open a cute cafe. Take an interiors design course. Retrain as a graphic designer. Learn how to do lettering. Be creative.

A lot of those things, I just can’t do. I’m not creative in the diy sense of the word. But I can put things together, aesthetically, just in the same way that I can put words together to weigh them with meaning.

You can’t do all the things in the world that you dream of. But you can do some of them. I’m trying to do a few things at the same time, that’s all. Write, and curate beautiful things in a small shop. I don’t see them as so incompatible.  I’m lots of things. You can be lots of things. A writer, a mother, a wife. A sister, a daughter, a business owner.

I am still writing. I haven’t thrown my experience away. This year, I’ve produced five to six short stories that, sure, need working on, but are stories nonetheless. I’m not giving up on what some call “writing talent.” Earlier this year, I took a Faber Academy creative writing course to tackle the techniques of aspects I’ve struggled with. Within the next two years, I hope to have enough material to apply for their novel writing course. But right now, I don’t have those ideas nailed. I need to do something else in order to keep creative. That’s sort of what the Quiet store is about, too. It’s my way of being creative. And then, the writing will come. And come.

Posted in: My thoughts, Writing & Reading
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September favourites

stormy sky over ally pally

Autumn is my favourite time of year. September was a crazy month of belated sunshine followed by endless monsoon-like rain (picture above taken when the sky turned black crossing Alexandra Palace in the middle of the day). We took a short-staycation holiday (it rained for the first three days, but that too was okay) and I put my online shop on pause, before returning to it renewed and full of fresh ideas. We had family birthdays, back to back, and toddler S started Montessori. Here’s all the things I loved as the seasons changed.

  1. Cos sneakers – I’ve had my eye on black slip-on pumps with a white sole for a while now; these Cos ones tick my every box. They’re leather, so warmer than a canvas for this time of year, and plus they’re super sturdy – not even this morning’s rain could soak my poor feet. The slip-on comes up high so you can even sneak a pair of socks on (which I need to, I’m always cold). With toddlers and babies, everything has to have a vaguely practical slant to it too – this means no more bending down for lace-tying with a small child strapped to my chest. We just slip-feet-and-go.
  2. Minor Goods leather bags – if you follow me on Instagram, you will already know my love for these beautiful bags. I splashed out on two: one tote, one smaller cross-strap, both in navy blue and a purse in natural-nude. I needed them all, I really did. I am realising that you can’t always put a price on buying things that you love but also that help make life that little bit easier. I was making do with a tiny navy bag that literally held my keys, purse and phone and nothing else. With two children, it wasn’t the most practical of choices and nor did it help that the clasp was stuck. Plus, my purse zip was broken so coins spilled out all the time. Time to reorganise – I bought all of this, plus two co-ordinating short straps that clip on to the inside of the bags so I can fish my keys and my purse out with no more rummaging. (Minor) practicalities aside, the finish on all these leather goods is just stunning. Also, Zoe, who runs Minor Goods, is lovely and sent me lots of kind messages encouraging me about my shop too.
  3. Oak Letter Tray at Really Well Made – another purchase that may have been pricey but that has turned around the headache of mounds of post piling up. We now finally have a system in place; a tray each for individual post plus one for general household. Finally, our dining table is no longer a dumping ground. Yes, I could have just got something from Ikea, but I wanted something that would last, that would feel weighty and was unique and lovely in its own right – even if it is just for holding letters.
  4. Balmology neroli + sweet basil cleansing balm – when the weather changes and grows cold, my skin feels fragile. This cleanser is so unbelievably nourishing, it feels like it’s protecting my face as well as cleaning it. It’s just lovely, and smells warm and deeply heady. Such a treat first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
  5.  Silicon Valley seasons 1 + 2 – I never got into things like The IT Crowd or The Big Bang if you’d told me I’d get hooked on some irreverant nerd comedy about coders and algorithms…What can I say, this has been such a highlight for us, a real favourite to click on when the babies are in bed. Seasons 1 & 2 are on blinkbox. It’s laugh-out-loud but clever not farcical. Genuinely gutted we have to wait for season 3.

That’s all for September. October brings lots of exciting shop developments with my first pop-up stall for the Quiet store on Saturday, October 10th at the State of Independence Market in Brick Lane (from midday). I’ll be posting all about it next week. Oh and there’s also this neat little interview with me by the organisers behind the market that you can read too. Exciting times ahead.

Posted in: My thoughts, Things I love

Things I’m learning about running a business

  1. Don’t rush into it without thinking it through.
  2. Do rush into it (else you will never make it happen)
  3. Don’t be hasty choosing a business name…
  4. …But it also doesn’t matter if you do change it. Do it sooner rather than later. I really very quickly grew to dislike the first brand name. I chose it because I didn’t follow my first point; I did rush, I didn’t consider the consequences a .london domain would bring (people assuming it’s part of the name) and it was too specific a name for the products I wanted to include. In short, it was confusing, lacked a contemporary feel and was limiting. Rebranding to the Quiet store has been liberating. I can grow the store in a new direction, I’m not embarrased by the name, the branding is distinct. It takes no time at all to register a name change with Companies House, you can change your social media handles without losing the followers you have built up and if you plan the transition, it can be entirely painfree.
  5. Learn to take good photos – I’m still so behind on that…
  6. And if you can’t take good photos, it *is* worth paying a professional to take them for you.
  7. Learn to prioritise – is it worth investing in stock if you don’t have the money to make your products look amazing with beautiful photography, for instance?
  8. Don’t think that voucher codes and discounts are the be all and end all for driving traffic to your shop. I thought it was a no-brainer to offer discounts, but really, it undercuts the value and quality of the products in the first place. Discounts still exist (a 10% off for new subscribers) and may appear from time to time, but don’t run them all the time. It undervalues you.
  9. Free shipping is really, really hard to sustain as a small independent business. I’d welcome some input into this.

And finally… Keep a tidy desktop. Spreadsheet everything. I have hours of catching up with this that I’m yet to do….

That said, this is all super exciting. The interest in the Quiet store is sparky and refreshing. I’m excited to see where it might all go…!

Posted in: My thoughts, Shop news
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Book review: Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel

High-fives. I’ve managed to finish reading another book.

When my best friend first told me to read Station Eleven, and I asked her what it was about, she said: “It’s set in the future. It’s about this group of actors, they travel around performing Shakespeare. Just read it.” I wasn’t exactly sold on that description. But she’s right. Oh my word, it’s just so hard to convey just how incredible this novel is. The kind of novel that leaves one writer (me) shaking their head, thinking “I’m no way near as good a writer as this.” But I also wouldn’t be writing a very good post if all I say is just read it. So let me try.

A deadly virus hits the world and everything changes. They call it the “collapse.” Few people survive; they live life on the road, survival of the fittest. Some of them try to hold on and preserve something of the world they remember, or if not actually remember (because they were too young to remember life with electricity and the internet), the world the remaining older generation talks about. A group called the Travelling Symphony tries to do this. They travel in vans across north America, from one place to the next, putting on plays. Trying to offer some sort of escape through culture and words.

But the book isn’t a lesson purely in the endurance of art (it’s not like there’s lots of Shakespeare actually in it). What it is, rather, is an exploration of loss, of memory, of fear. Of the fear of dying. The fear of surviving in a world which you can’t trust. It’s an exploration of how big the world is and yet how small the sparks and connections are that bind people together. What are the chances, of all the people who live beyond the virus, that at least two of them are connected by chance, and that their small lives have overlapped in a way which they don’t even recognise until the end?

Look, I’m probably still not doing a good job at reviewing this. I have already posted my copy to another friend with a note – “just read it.” There is so much tragedy and thrilling, chilling twists and turns in this book, and it is all just so beautifully written. Woeful and beautiful and bold.

I leave you with a line I underscored. Even taken out of context, it leaves me cold, for what would you do if you were trying to survive in a world which was dying?

“But these thoughts broke apart in his head and were replaced by strange fragments: This is my soul and the world unwinding, this is my heart in the still winter air. Finally whispering the two same words over and over: “Keep walking. Keep walking. Keep walking.”

Posted in: Books, Writing & Reading
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September – six things to look forward to


  1. Exciting new developments over at my shop, the Quiet store, with new accessories and homeware range launching very soon
  2. More family birthdays
  3. My little boy starts nursery
  4. Cosying down for autumn (follow my pinterest board)
  5. My local bookshop starts its first bookclub
  6. So many interior design shows to catch, I haven’t been since my journalist days and can’t wait to get back to it (LDF, Tent)
Posted in: My thoughts, Things I love