If you missed the first instalment of my interview with Katie Kirby, you can find it here.
I introduced a very old friend to your work who has just had her second baby and her first baby has had some health problems so it’s been a rollercoaster for her. I showed her one of your posts about sleep deprivation and she laughed and then she cried and she couldn’t stop crying! I’ve seen her cry about twice in my lifetime but it was so close to the bone for her. You do strike a massive chord, clearly. Does it feel like there is this big group of women who are feeling the same?
Yeah, that’s one of the biggest reasons I started. I really struggled when I had Felix, my oldest. I wasn’t blogging then but I went through a really hard time and I didn’t think motherhood was going to be as hard as it was and I just didn’t see a way out of it. It was horrible and then I came through it. When I had Seth I was determined not to go down the same path but equally I couldn’t really find much online. The mum blogs I could find were all full of adverts or kids dressed in beautiful clothes with lovely pictures and stuff so I thought ‘I’ll start a blog that talks about the realities of it’. That honest approach is getting more common now but at the time it just didn’t exist.
I was really conscious of sharing the real experiences, the challenges, the good points and the bad points. Actually, what you find out is that nearly everyone is going through the same thing. That’s one of the most frequent comments I get ‘Oh my god, are you spying on me, it’s just like our house!’ It’s really nice to hear that but it’s also quite sad isn’t it, you think so many people are sitting at home, going through the same thing, but they don’t feel normal because of what they see in the media or these lovely styled blogs or even on your own Facebook feed. We’re all guilty of posting glossy holiday pics but going on holiday with kids can be a total nightmare and often you’re sat there thinking ‘Oh god why did we even bother spending thousands of pounds and everyone is just dropping their lollies in the sand and screaming!’ You don’t post that stuff on Facebook, so without knowing it we’re editing our own lives and everyone seems like they’re having a great time but actually, that’s not always true and no one is really sharing the real stuff. By sharing the real stuff people feel less alone which is often all it needs. When someone else shares those stories you laugh, because it’s not you and suddenly those horrible dark hours and days seem funny. It’s better to laugh at stuff and know you’re not alone than get bogged down in feeling like you’re failing because you’re probably not.
What was your ‘She Believed She Could So She Did’ moment? Was there an ‘I’m doing this’ point where you remember it turning from a hobby to a business?
I suppose at first it’s when you start getting more followers and you think ‘Oh wow, people are enjoying it and sharing it’. At that point you start thinking ‘This could really go somewhere’. The first thing I started doing was making greetings cards and the blog wasn’t as big as it is now. I just jotted down things I thought would make a good sketch and turned them into cards but they weren’t related to the blog as such. Now I’m trying to make them more connected to the blog with more stick people! That was quite a cool moment when I realised people wanted the cards though, it was becoming something I could do and maybe make a success of. Often when you’re a mum and you make hard decisions, like my decision between working up in London or doing my own thing, it feels quite scary. I kept thinking ‘I went to uni, I’ve got a good degree, I worked for ten years up in London’ and then I thought ‘What do I do now, I’m just a mum?’ and that’s fine, if that’s what you want to do. And I was fine with that too for a while but then I realised I didn’t want all of that to go to waste. I still had more to give, I still wanted to work so it was disheartening to think that was it. I always wanted to work and I knew being a stay at home mum long term wouldn’t suit me. It was good to start to see some options come up.
The book came up when people started suggesting it to me ‘Why not write a book?’. My editor was reading the blog as she was on maternity leave at the time and she emailed me to say ‘Have you thought about a book?’ and I felt so pleased.
What about the flipside of that, have there been any low points?
Yeah probably loads but I can’t remember them! [thinks] Not winning awards, I’ve been up for awards in the past and I’ve not won them which is frustrating as I like winning things!
It’s always continual, putting your life out there and having people analyse and judge and rate it. As I say it’s not loads of comments but they’re the ones I focus on and stay on my shoulders a bit longer than other ones. It’s about getting that balance. Because my work is ‘always on’ I’m conscious of the kids and I don’t want to be always on my phone and get too absorbed in it. So yeah there’s definitely low points generally to how successful it has become. It is swings and roundabouts really isn’t it?
It’s not a hobby anymore!
No definitely not!
Where do you find your calm in all of this?
That’s the tough thing, it’s so hard to switch off! Even when you have time to switch off it’s hard to switch your brain off. When I go up to bed at night I’m still thinking ‘I need to do this, what about that?’. When you’re at work for a company it’s not all on you. It’s not your business so you can complain about it or ask for more help or staff or whatever it is you need. I haven’t got any support like that so it’s all on me constantly. Even just wanting some advice, it’s hard not having someone to as those things of. Obviously I’ll talk to Jim about it but it’s definitely all on me at the end of the day.
What I tend to do when I’m stressed is I have loads of baths. Jim knows this about me, I’ll often have a shower in the morning and on stressful weeks a bath every night too! It’s not because I feel dirty, it’s because with the bath I leave my phone outside the bathroom and I get a book or a magazine and make sure I can’t work. That helps me to have an hour of not thinking about it. Another great thing is a good girly weekend or a girl’s lunch, you need those things to decompress. It’s so easy for work to take over your life especially when you work from home by yourself. You can so easily redress the balance by taking some time out and hang out with other people and talk about non-work stuff.
Who’s been the biggest support along the way?
Writing is a solitary thing. Obviously Jim has been there for the hard side things. Both sets of grandparents are around too so they look after the boys if I need to go up to London or something. And I have an agent now so she can help me push back on stuff and my editor is brilliant too.
Is there a phrase or mantra you use to keep you motivated?
I’m quite competitive so I always tell myself to not compare myself to other people. It’s so easy on the internet to look at others and think they’re doing better than you. No one is original really so I just tell myself to stay true to who I am and don’t worry about what other people are doing. Just do your own thing. You can’t keep up with what anyone else is doing, all you can do is run your own race. If you do compare yourself all it does is bring you down. I don’t look at anyone else, I just think ‘Good on them’ and know that I’m doing OK and focus on doing my own thing better. That’s my biggest bit of advice.
If someone is reading this with an idea, maybe there on mat leave and want to start a business but they don’t know where to begin, what would you say?
Aside from all the business stuff around working out if there’s a market or a gap, I would say don’t overthink it to the point that you never get round to doing it. You can get so consumed by the detail but by the time you get round to it you’ve talked yourself out of it. When I started blogging I was doing recipes and lifestyle stuff and it wasn’t anything like what it is now, it just evolved. It’s a big learning process. So you start doing things and see how people react to your work. Then you develop it and you learn from it. Who has got loads of time? Throw yourself into it to an extent and don’t overanalyse. Get involved! Listen to feedback and try and learn. That’s what’s great about the internet, there’s this constant instant feedback loop and plenty of advice out there.
If you’re so competitive, do you feel worried about failure?
Yeah, I do. I am doing the next book and I think ‘God I’ve to do another one, what if everyone hates it?’ and that’s scary! I’m trying not to think about it, I’m just trying to get on with it! I’m already nervous if I think about it too much. I think about it coming out and stuff that’s really scary!
The difficult second album?!
Yeah it’s the same thing! The first one was bad enough. You put yourself out there for people to judge. It’s not like writing a novel which would be hard enough, I’m writing about myself so people are critiquing my writing and how funny it is but also me as a person! God, I was really terrified of it, I think I spent about a week crying before it came out! I think I was cracking up a bit! Now I’m doing it again with perhaps a bit more pressure! It’s about not letting that fear overcome you because there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to think ‘Well I’m enjoying this’. The alternative is not to do another book but the first one did alright and I enjoy doing them so why let that hold me back? I’m enjoying doing the new book so I hold onto that.
I have a friend who is a new mum and so excited about this interview with you (Hi Hannah!)! I asked her if she had a question for you and she said “Ask her if she drank as much before having children because I’m not sure that I did?!” I’m not sure if you want to answer that or not?![Laughs] I’ll answer it! I probably drink more often now but less quantity. I used to go out more and have bigger nights out whereas now I don’t really do that so I’m likely to have a glass of wine at the end of the day. God knows if that answer is actually 100% accurate but let’s go with it!
The book and the stationery range. I get lots of weird and wonderful requests like TV shows which is nuts! Things like that rarely come off though… I’m also quite nervous about overexposure and lack of control. If you do a TV show or a film you sign the the rights over to someone else. Someone emailed about a stage show, and I will speak to her but there are all sorts of weird things that crop up! I get a lot of brands too but I’m really selective. I prefer it to be a collaboration. If I’m creating content in my voice for brands then that’s fun. It’s just knowing what fits. Stationery and diaries, which I love anyway felt like such a natural fit so that was a no-brainer. I don’t want anything I do to look like cashing in!
And with that we get a quick picture (Where we unconsciously leg twin!) and she’s off back to her kids and her emails and her very full life. I SO enjoyed our chat, I genuinely found her so inspiring and hope you did too. I can’t wait to see what Katie does next…