Jessica Pidsley, What's Your Story?
I LOVE Jessica Pidsley. Or The Pidster as I like to call her as seeing as I've spent a HUGE amount of time stalking her since I discovered her book, Imoerfections: A Perfectionist's Guide to Becoming Imoerfect. This is the best book I read last year, and as my accountant informed me yesterday that I'd spent more on books last year than clothes and food combined, I'd like to point out that the 'best book o' last year' slot is a big freakin' deal here at SASSY towers.
It's a book o' wonder for many reasons, but my favourite is that Jessica has written the book, which is part diary, part biography, part self-help manual, part literary experiment, allowing herself only one edit and no deleting. Now, I write a lot about messing up and being an imperfect perfectionist but this is freakin' inspired. The Pidster says:
'...it's a book that's effectively gone shopping in public in it's PJs...'
This concept just blows my mind. I work with my writer-girls to write without edit, to riff with their big beat-y hearts, it's a total freedom, but then to publish it, just the way it is? G-friend's got an almighty pair of ovaries, that's for sure. Come meet her as I ask 'Jessica Pidsley, what's YOUR story?'
I can categorically, hands down, say Imperfections was the best book I read in 2012. I NEEDED this book Jess, it's part diary, part biography, part self-help manual, part literary experiment - you like to keep things interesting Miss J - tell us about it... Imoerfections, at its core, is about knowingly putting something imperfect out into the world and cherishing it precisely because of that imperfection. I wanted it to embody and reflect our humanness. In life we think people love us when we are successful, attractive and capable, but the truth is that people often like us regardless of our outer achievements. Sometimes people love us in spite of these reasons not because of them. It's easy to forget, or actually never to know that we are loved and lovable no matter what we do. This book is a celebration of that very unreported and underdiscussed theory. In a time where we are constantly striving to improve and perfect ourselves and the world around us I wanted to share something messy, something that highlights the struggles involved with understanding ourselves better and that was essentially a sharing of me, as I am. It is a book that gives you a search warrant to peek in my existential baggage.
Despite the fact I'm an author and an editor, the fact that this book comes it in it's imoerfect state didn't even worry me, did you find yourself itching to go back and start again? Did you wish you'd never started? Absolutely! In some ways that was one of the biggest challenges. I was very aware of taking the risk that some readers might find it difficult to deal with the errors, but that's why I think it is a book that asks questions of the reader. It asks them to see how they deal with seeing someone making mistakes and on a literary level it forces them to look at their own pedantry and relationship to how things "should be". That was the dare to myself really. Do I dare to share something that people may not like, may not find attractive, that hasn't been cosmetically enhanced? Do I dare to publish a book that has no make-up on, a text that is effectively out shopping in public in its pjs? The answer was yes and the book is the result. I still sometimes get an ego attack about people reading the book and judging me harshly and thinking I'm an imbecile, but what I've come to realise is that even if I hadn't written it, my inner critic would have found something else, like...ha ha I knew you wouldn't write that book. Therefore my conclusion was, well if it's going to get worked up about something I may as well give it something epic to play with.
So you set yourself a pretty hard and fast deadline, right? Share your writer-girl process for this book - did it bring out any sweat-inducing anxieties or was it actually quite refreshing to know you were 'just' writing - freestyling almost? I actually set myself a much easier deadline than I ended up doing. I gave myself a couple of months, but ended up doing it in 19 days with one self-imposed day off. My process was daily writing and editing. I would sit down and start writing at about 7am, until I needed to tear myself away from my laptop to head to work and then I would come home and edit the book for two or three hours in the evening. I had an incredible drive and focus about it, I'm not really sure what happened it was like some kind of possession occurred. I'd always said I wanted to write a book, so when the idea came to me I just followed it to it's natural conclusion. It was intense for sure. Life tends to be a bit like that with me when I get an idea in my head.
How did it go from a literary experiment to an actual book - did you shop it around or decide to go solo from the get-go? (Get-go is so wank isn't it? Sorry...) I was determined to get it out into the world, because I want my work to reach people, even if it's only a handful of people to begin with. What's important to me is helping other people feel less alone through sharing my own experieces. I knew that loads of people would have all kinds of opinions about what I should or shouldn't do in terms of publishing it, but my ethos was this: A book only available on kindle and iPhone is better than a book that is sitting in my computer not being shared with anyone. My husband told me that it was possible to get it out on kindle and so we set about formatting and got it out there. I'm not on any bestseller list yet, but the response so far has been wonderful and the fact that people are expressing how it has helped them makes it worthwhile for me. Plus with £2 profit a book I can get myself all kinds of treats like onsies and chocolate covered raisins. Life is sweet for authors!
We share an obsession for all things self-help - what's that about do you reckon? Why do you think we strive for self-improvement? Why's it's so hard to accept ourselves, right now, just as we are? ( sorry, any opportunity to quote a li'l Bridget Jones...) I read these books in order to understand and accept myself more fully. I felt and do feel so bombarded with messages of not being enough as I am that I turned to self-help as exactly that - a way to help myself learn greater compassion for myself and other people. I don't see it so much about trying to fix myself, I may have done once, but now I see it much more as creating a little tool kit, or one of those cool tool belts (I've always wanted one of those) to help us make our experience of life deeper, our relationships more connected and our emotional intelligence more integrated. Sometimes we are rewiring and reworking decades of particular neurological pathways and habitual behavioural responses that used to serve us. We have to become mental electricians (as in, they work with the mind, not that they leave live wires lying around!) and who wouldn't need a manual to navigate the wires in our brain, plugs are challenging enough. Once I realised that I could create the life I wanted to live with my thoughts, emotions and the way I communicate my life began to transform in aprofound and beautiful way. I've never liked myself more.
So what did you learn from this whole experiment/book writing extravaganza, Miss J? That I can write a book.
What would be the top 5 tracks on a Imeoerfect soundtrack? Ooohh. We've got to have Elbow's "Day Like This" it's just the sort of song that makes you remember the awesomeness of being alive. The Beatles "Let it Be", especially because I have been learning to leave myself alone a bit rather than constantly micro-managing everything I do and because it was the first dance at our wedding (slush puppy alert). Jessie J's "Price Tag", The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" because it rocks the big ones and Florence and the Machine's "Shake it Off" becuase she's totally right, it's hard to dance with the devil on your back so shake him off.
I am all about living open and honestly, showing up and being a li'l vulnerable sometimes, now, not only do you write books you do stand up too - I would shit myself - how are you able to do it? That's the ultimate vulnerability to me - share your secrets please Miss J! Yeah, I think shitting yourself comes with the territory. What I love about stand-up is that you have to work it out in front of people. You have to make your mistakes as well as your successes publicly, because the feedback from audiences is vital in crafting the material and getting the most out of your storytelling and jokes. It is really scary putting yourself out there, no matter what it is, but I have learnt through stand-up to keep positive (You have to, otherwise they smell your fear) and remember that audiences are there to have a great time, most people don't want to watch you suffer (most). If you can be relaxed and let them know you're comfortable with whatever happens they will go with you. The vulnerability is what is exquisite about any performing and the in the moment-ness of stand-up makes it incredibly intense and alive.
What's your life motto? I'll handle it.
What's your absolute truth? One day I'll die. How lucky I am to be alive now. Savour it.
Quick fire round: What's your favourite: Book: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, mainly because it was the book that I felt awakened me into adulthood in a sublime way. It awakened my awareness. Movie: Blimey, my favourite...erm...One that I still think about now in terms of ideas and the way I reacted to it was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I couldn't say favourite. I love watching 3D films, I'm still awed by the magic and love wearing the glasses. I love Woody Allen films too. Fictitious character: I love Willy Wonka. (Not a euphemism) He is an incredibly complex character, plus he has a sweet and chocolate factory. Place to hang: Brixton Village, just down the road from where I live. If not there then Kaff in Brixton or at the Ritzy cinema. I love Brixton so much. Oh my goodness could I say Brixton an more in this answer? Yes. Brixton rocks. City: London. This city constantly surprises and amazes me. The other day I was on the top deck of the bus (urban rollercoaster) and I went over the Waterloo Bridge at night, It was stunning, I took a deep breath, so much so that the man next to melooked at me knowingly and smilingly said "first time over the bridge?" to which I could only reply "No, I go over it every day" Food: Frozen raspberries TV programme: I love, love, love documentaries. Anything like One Born Every Minute, 999 What's Your Emergency, Educating Essex. Just brilliant. They show people at their best and worst, their strongest and most vulnerable. Website: www.brenebrown.com Her manifestos are wonderful and if you haven't seen her TED talk on vulnerability before. Watch it. Now. It inspired me to write my book.
What's next in the world o' Miss Jess? I'm currently working on a new character show called "The Female of the Species", in which I play all the characters (greedy...I know). I'm writing it with my husband as a series, but I may be sending out sketches and online snapshots of it so watch out for those. Then I am running the London Marathon in April for Mind, the mental health charity, so if you feel compelled to sponsor me, even as little as a pound, you can on my justgiving page www.justgiving.com/jessica-pidsley or text RUNJ83 and an amount to 70070. I'm up to 13 miles in my training runs now, so I'm half way there. I'm also working on workshops and doing one-to-one sessions tohelp people embrace their imoerfectness. We punish ourselves so much by assuming that "we will be worthy when..." and actually what we need is permission to allow ourselves to just be what we are first. That will be enough to keep me occupied for the next little while I'm sure.
Did I not tell you she was awesome?!
Buy the book: ImOerfections: A Perfectionist's Guide to becoming ImOerfect here.
Follow her: twitter.com/jesspidsley
Like her: www.facebook.com/jessicapidsley
Stalk her: icanmakeyouthink.com