Advent calendar with text: Thisis our advent calendar. Every year we fill it with sweets and little notes to each other. This year we have filled it with ideas. Future stories.

Filling Your Bucket

“What if we made the door?” I said…

When life throws you bathroom door quotes for £656, make your own damn door.

My husband and I are—well, I’d like to say halfway through renovating our 400-year-old cottage but honestly I think we’ll die of old age before we’re done. So let’s just say we are mid-project. Currently constructing a bathroom, which is going to need a door.

In keeping with the cottage’s age and style, it needs an oak door and we were given to understand that said oak door would cost somewhere in the region of £300. So imagine our sticker shock when the quote came in at £656.

It’s not that we think it won’t be worth it, you understand. The joiner dude does beautiful work. We’re just not willing to spend that much on an internal door. And we like a challenge.

We both said NOPE and immediately googled “how to make a solid oak ledged door”. Doesn’t look beyond our capabilities (we’re pretty handy after all the work we’ve done on the house) so we’re going to do it.

Will it be a good door? Will it fit? Will we be able to do this?

Dunno. We’ve never tried to make and fit a door before, let alone a solid oak one. But what if we can? What if we can make this door with our own hands? How cool would that be?

Correct: pretty damn cool.

So that’s what we’re doing. To be honest, our entire house renovation so far has been one long series of “what if”s, up to and including “what if we bought this wreck of a house and made it into our home?”

And the memorable: “What if we take off the entire front of the house and replace it?”


It’s been one of the most fulfilling, frustrating, and delightful choices we’ve ever made.

There’ve been a lot of what ifs in my life. What if I get married? What if I leave this marriage that I am unhappy in? What if I take a chance and marry this dude who puts up with my specific brand of nonsense with no complaints? (Excellent decision.)

What if, instead of getting another job that sucks the life out of me, I start my own business?

What if I write a book? What if I stopped being a copywriter and started doing what I love? What if I take this wonky lamb home and raise him and call him Eric? What if I start studying for my MA in creative writing? What if I enter this trapeze competition?

Let go of expectations

This January, like every other before it, has been filled with declarations about how 2022 is going to be the Best Year Ever. I love the sentiment, and the optimism. But I don’t love the pressure.

And, if 2020 has taught me anything, it is that the universe will definitely fuck with us. And that making statements like Best Year Ever is danger bears.

So instead, I invite you to try something different. Now that most of January is out of the way and we’ve all calmed down with our resolutions, let’s try this instead: letting go of expectations.

Expectations, whew. They’re heavy, friend. Like, plutonium barbells heavy. They’re a lot to live up, with the possibility of great disappointment and frustration.

Plus, there’s the whole “performed as expected”. Bit underwhelming, no?

If we’ve never tried something before, we don’t expect to be able to do it. Definitely not right now; maybe not at all.

I teach a trapeze class in my spare time, and the number of times I hear someone say, “I’ll never be able to do that.” I stop them, and make them rephrase it: “I can’t do that yet. But I’m gonna learn.” Because if we go into something with the expectation that we won’t be able to do it, we probably won’t. We live up and down to our expectations. But if we go in asking, “What if I try this?” who knows what might happen?

What might we do—and LOVE—if we didn’t dismiss it without giving it a go?

We can all pick a thing and say “what if” and then give it a go, whatever our backgrounds, our abilities, our shapes and sizes and circumstances. I’m not talking about doing the things that I’m doing, or that someone else is doing, or that you think you SHOULD be doing.

I’m talking about stuff you’d love to do. Stuff you’ve never thought of doing—or that you’ve always thought of doing. Stuff you may have been told isn’t for you, or that you can’t do, for whatever reason.

What if, instead of focusing only on what we know we can do because it’s safe… what if, instead, we ask what we can’t do but would love to? What if we try? What if we find a gap—and find out how to fill it?

This year, join me in trying something that might not work. Accept that it might not work, and try it anyway. Give yourself permission to screw up and look a fool, and see where it leads. Then try it again. And again.

What if, instead of doing the things for good and sensible reasons, we just do the things because we want to do them? What if we look at things that seem useless, or a waste of time, and see if actually they’re filled with tiny moments of joy?

What if we look for the joy in the tiny moments?

Do the thing before it’s too late

What ifs are incredibly powerful.

I’m not saying you should do all the things I’ve done. In fact, that’s counter to my point. I’m saying, make “what if” your mantra for this coming year and see where it takes you.

I am gonna make one suggestion, though, because you are reading this newsletter and so you must be interested in writing.

My suggestion is this: what if you write that book?

Most people never start their books because they’re afraid they won’t be perfect. Of course it won’t be perfect; nothing is. (Except for my cat, Noodle. He’s perfect.) Or, people do start their books, they do a little writing, realise it’s not very good, and give up—without giving themselves a chance to improve it.

So. What if you start your book? What if what you write isn’t very good, at first? What if you keep going, and make it better? What if you finish your book?

What if you publish it, and people read it, and it changes their lives, and they love it, and tell you so?

What if writing your book brings you a joy you never saw coming?

What do you say?

If it’s a yes, would you like to do it with a bunch of beautiful weirdos like you?

Then check out The Weird + Wonderful Book Society. We start on February 4 and we’d love to have you.

Notes in the Margin

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