The Writer Mum And Other Challenges

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

There’s a certain safety in my chosen career, especially if you’re something of a neurotic, antisocial, anxiety riddled weirdo like me.

Writing fiction is the safest part.  It’s a new world and new people, and anything they say or do isn’t my thoughts or actions therefore, even if I know which aspects of the things that go on are parts of me, it’s all created rather than based on real life.  I’m protected behind an artificial barrier of a made up world.

Writing my blog is the next safest.  Whilst it’s my life, my words, it’s written down and I can go back and edit it, I can spend hours if necessary deciding on the perfect word to use to translate what’s in my head in a big sauce onto words in a way that is digestible and accurate.  Whilst the shield I’m behind doesn’t stop it being me that is being judged, it does give me an opportunity to be secure in what I’m saying before it’s given to the world.

Now I’ve started podcasting.  And it’s pretty terrifying in an awesome and challenging way.

I started in a joint podcast for Siren Stories with my writing partner, and life partner, The Boy.  That was scary when we first started.  The first recording had false starts where I panicked, forgot how to speak, or inexplicably choked on my own saliva.  I hated listening back to it.  Loathed it.  My voice sounded awful, nasal and drawling like a badly written fictional villain.  Just dreadful.  But, after the first couple of sessions I relaxed into it.  Then it became so much fun!  It became something I genuinely looked forward to doing because conversations with him are fun and interesting anyway, and I love the fact we have a legitimate reason to take time out of our ridiculously busy days to talk about stuff we love so much!

One of the recordings we do is an episode by episode analysis of the Netflix show “Jessica Jones.”  We love it.  We love watching it and we love recording it.  We love talking about it.  It’s one of the highlights of my week.

There’s a safety in the podcast for Siren Stories, and that’s in a shield of Jonathan McKinney.  If I stop talking because suddenly my tongue has grown three foot and I’ve forgotten what language I speak, he picks up the silence.  If I can’t think of anything to say he speaks and gives me something to bounce off.  If I go off on a tangent or get confused over where we’re headed, he is able to redirect it.  Our conversation together is flowing and natural anyway, so it’s easy.

Then there’s my podcast… my own podcast I record all by myself.  The Writer Mum Podcast.

The most terrifying part of my job ever.  Because it’s just me.  It’s not just me writing, it’s me speaking.  It’s me speaking into the ears of strangers.

If I go off on a tangent I have to drag my way back, if I forget how to speak I have to remember fast or face a series of “erms” and “uhs” filling the time.  I can’t go back and edit, not like I can with the blog because words flow without the ability to pick out and replace a word here or there without it sounding bizarre and unnatural.

Once it’s out there my choices are either leave it, or delete it.  I can’t edit it, I can’t twiddle with it.  Leave it and feel like it’s not right, delete it and be left with an empty space and a missing episode.

Then there’s the fact I have a seven week old baby.  A seven week old baby who begins her cluster feeding when the big kids go to bed.  I can’t record when they’re awake, obviously as they’re loud and obnoxious, and she’s too little to send off because she’s breastfed and gets hungry.  Plus I don’t want to send her away… although there are occasions she makes recording very tricky.

I always apologise at the start and explain that she is with me and there might be some peculiar little baby noises at moments.  But sometimes there aren’t peculiar little baby noises, sometimes she lets out an enormous fart that not only sounds ridiculous but gives me fits or the giggles and then sends me reeling because my gosh this child can fart like her father.  How something so cute and little can make smells so terrible and huge I do not know.  Other times she’s coming off the nipple and struggling to latch back on, so I’m trying to talk and relatch and end up muddling up what I’m saying.  Then I get cross and the recording features a number of expletives as I try and refocus my brain.  And then I delete it.

I can go back and edit, cut out the enormous fart noise and subsequent giggles, but then I have to restart in a way that sounds natural and sometimes I just can’t, it won’t flow right.  In time I am sure that will come but my acting skills aren’t there yet and I can’t forge the emotion or feelings I had mid sentence for the sake of continuity.

What to talk about would be a challenge if I didn’t have a wealth of blogs to use as inspiration.  I can reach a whole new audience, or give the existing audience new thoughts on blogs they’ve already read.  So basically it’s a good job I’ve written copious amounts on the subject I love so much because otherwise I might panic and decide I have nothing to say and then give up!

It’s a real challenge.  It’s something I never envisioned doing.  Launching Siren Stories: The Podcast made me find out how much fun it can be, and inspired me to start my own.  The safety belt is definitely off.  I’m riding without stabilizers.  It’s scary and I’m still not convinced I like the sound of my voice enough to launch it out into the world on iTunes, but I’m enjoying it.  There’s excitement in new challenges and I love reaching new people who might not be interested in reading blogs but do listen to podcasts.

Adding new challenges is awesome, and something I’m really proud I’ve been brave enough to do.  It’s forced me out of my comfort zone and made me explore something that seemed impossibly out of reach and pointless even considering.  My next challenge will be interviews.  I want to talk to other mums, other writers, other feminists.  Get their thoughts on subjects that are in the news, and share the space with other voices that deserve to be heard.

Both Siren Stories: The Podcast and The Writer Mum Podcast are on iTunes or you can listen online through and, and The Writer Mum Podcast is also on facebook.

All my contact information is on there too so have a listen, let me know what you think, and if you want to be featured or have any suggestions for content, get in touch!

I’m not naturally inclined towards doing things that scare me, but having done it I’m finding it far more rewarding than I ever imagined!




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