About my TinyLetter
I think of it like putting a letter in a bottle and letting it float away: it’s not really about anything in particular, just an outlet for sentences and feelings that are stuck in my head. I write a lot, when I’m on the bus or cooking or waiting for someone, and if it’s not too personal or rude then it ends up in the TinyLetter. That’s pretty vague: it’s mostly just description, of where I am and what I’ve done and what I’m thinking, that I write more or less for the sake of writing.
Did you know there are no milk bars in England? A friend of mine once quizzed me about them, not really believing in them. She’d read an article about milk bars and somehow got the impression that they were bars, but ones which only served milk, and she was incredulous. They’re not that. They’re milk bars. The closest, I guess, is an off-licence, but that’s not the same at all.
I have a discussion with a friend about how we eat pies, and an argument with someone – not from here, obviously – who wants to eat fish and chips with a knife and fork.
Today I do my first goodbyes, though I’m not leaving for a week. It’s hard to know exactly what to say, because they’re not goodbye goodbyes, but they are something grave feeling. Someone once said a goodbye to me: we’ll probably never see each other again. It’s been really good knowing you. All the best. Maybe we’ll cross paths. (Unsurprisingly, it was premature, and she’s back.)
You can say lots of small true things, about the near future, but eventually the flow of a departure takes you to: and I’ll see you… when? I don’t know. That’s all I can say. It conceals a: maybe July, maybe October, maybe… I don’t know. And the indefiniteness worms into my stomach, because I love these people; just not the way you have to, for it to change your mind about this kind of thing.
Or maybe that’s too strict. There are lots of reasons people stay where they’re from, but people like these are probably the biggest. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with knowing that you like something, someone, some place, and thinking you should just stick with it. For the first time in a while it even seems like there might be something right about it.
The side effect of goodbyes is that, although it’s still a week away, leaving seems suddenly imminent. Some little tweak makes my stomach lurch and my mind flit to what I suppose I should call my return. Most recently, I closed a cupboard, and it seemed loud, and then I was on my cupboards in my empty apartment, wondering if they’re as loud as that. This is less than half a second of thought, but enough to make my stomach do a flip at the unwanted connection. I have had this before, when I’m trying really hard not to think about something, so hard that it just pops up momentarily and inexplicably, and these butterflies appear in me, as if to tell me I’ve been sprung.
When I wake up on the last day it’s grey and raining. I put my suitcase on the bed, then start writing something pathetic. But within an hour it’s sunshine so scorching that when I take the dog for a walk he trails behind me the whole way, half hoping to turn around. Wherever we’re going, he’s saying, wouldn’t you rather just stay here, and lie in the sun?
Q & A
Why did you start a TinyLetter?
I’d started doing personal writing a bit more, because I was lonely, and then I went to a party to watch the US election and – as the mood got darker and everything went bad – felt this overwhelming urge to put in writing the mood of the environment I was in. I wrote that first letter on the 5am bus home and put it on my regular blog, but once I decided to keep doing them it seemed like a different kind of project that I should keep separate, so I did.
What is your experience of the community?
I’m signed up to a bunch of letters that are all completely different– in content and structure, but also in regularity and style. I don’t know if there’s much ‘community’, in a really interactive sense, but there’s a whole world that’s incredibly diverse, and it’s quite liberating and reassuring to realise that. it means you can write without feeling restricted in what’s appropriate style, which is impossible in publication and even pretty hard on an old-style blog.
What advice would you give?
Don’t think of it as a professional product or career tool. I am definitely not brave enough to use anything from my TinyLetter as part of a portfolio or job application – it’s much better as an outlet for writing about whatever, without trying to change your voice to fit where you’re pitching or come up with an angle. And whenever I’ve occasionally started to take it more seriously and worry about the quality or tone, it’s become much harder to write freely and enjoyably – which should be the point.