Project H: Busyness vs Stress and What Red Was by Rosie Price

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to many people who know me to hear that I like to be busy. At university, I planned my days down to the minute, making sure every moment was filled to maximise productivity. Looking back, I’m not sure how far this attitude got me, but at least it did get me my degree and some of the extra-curricular activities I did in York. Now that I’m a working gal, I’ve exchanged my desk in the library for a desk in the office.

A few months ago, I probably wouldn’t have said that my life was particularly busy. Sure, I had something on most nights of the week, but it all felt fairly slow-paced and under control. Recently, though, I’ve started to feel as though I barely get a minute to stop, make myself a cup of tea and just chill. To be honest, this is probably how I like it. I like to feel as though there’s always something I could be doing, something I could be ticking off my list. Although, of course, there is a fine line, and busyness can quickly turn into stress, which can in turn lead to burnout (something I think I have experienced in the past). But realising how I work best has made me think about what I prioritise in a job, as well as what I like to spend the rest of my time doing. Thankfully, I’m not so busy that I don’t have time to read; I know things have really got out of hand when I can no longer fit in a couple of chapters before I go to sleep. (Let’s ignore the fact that I’m sacrificing my precious reading time to write this blog post.)

Last month I read What Red Was by Rosie Price. Having heard it recommended on The High Low (where else?) and pre-ordered it a while ago, it was a lovely surprise when it landed on my doorstep in early May. Incredibly well written, piercing and vulnerable, the content of the book is far from ‘lovely’, although there are many moments of tenderness, friendship and laughter. The pivotal moment is an act of sexual assault, but this book is so much more than that, not letting itself, or its protagonist, Kate, be defined by this one moment.

Reading about Kate living in various flats in London, drinking wine and trying to pave her way in the film industry made me crave independence and life beyond my own four walls. Not that I would want to go through what she goes through and not that her lifestyle seems particularly glamorous, but there’s something about her independence, her sense of self and her narrative voice that draws me in. This debut novel explores the stark reality of rape in a way that removes all sensationalism. It happened. It happens. And victims learn to continue with their lives, whilst still very much bearing the scars. This is a stunning book, which I think every twenty-something year-old should read, male or female.

Reading amazing books just makes me want to write books, amazing or otherwise. I haven’t done any creative writing since I was a lot younger, but if anyone wants a little bit of inspiration to get on with it, I would highly recommend listening to Alice-Azania Jarvis’ podcast, The Sunday Salon. She chats to female authors about their writing, their careers in general and the books they like to read. Listening to it makes me want to spend every spare second of my life writing, creating and just generally doing writer things (which, in my head, are incredibly romantic). Some of my favourite guests include Charly Cox, author of She Must Be Mad, Diana Evans, author of Ordinary People and Elizabeth Day, How to Fail author and podcast host.

Maybe if I put “Write a novel” on my ‘To do’ list it will somehow materialise?

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