how to change the world

On having a bit of a wobble

By John-Paul Flintoff

Recently, I had a bit of a wobble. I became a bit overwhelmed with the negative voice in my head, telling me that my happy experiments in writing historical fiction, and working as a coach, and playing with improvisation might strike my old friends in journalism as, essentially, foolish and pathetic.

I decided to test the idea. On Facebook, I contacted lots of very eminent and successful journalist friends and told them exactly that. I also sent them a link to my book. Before sending the message, I had to take several deep breaths.

Here are some of the replies, edited a teeny bit to conceal identities:



That’s great news about your book. I admire your energy and enthusiasm for a new chapter (literally…) and also your drive confidence in getting it done…the latter all the more impressive for being hard won, as you describe. Know the feeling! Wish you masses of luck with it.

HI JP – looking forward to reading the book. My take is that if we rid ourselves of the terrible word ‘career’, with its inference of petty incrementalism, then we’d all be a lot happier, more mobile socially and skills-wise, and be empowered to do all kinds of different things just as well as ‘professionals’. I don’t like words like ‘polymath’ and ‘portfolio’ – rather, we should normalise the human tendency to do many different things, not be tyrannised by the division of labour, and stop letting the toad ‘work’ squat on our lives… So, feel the ‘fraud’ emotion and do it anyway! x

Good luck with the novel – I think that’s brilliant. I do very little actual journalism these days – I write a column for XXX and I do bits of telly and radio, but mostly I do much better paid client work, and TBH I don’t give a stuff if my former colleagues think I’m selling out or whatever. Find out new stuff about yourself and develop new skills that build on your old skills. My post-journalism skills seem to be writing good stuff that clients want to pay for, and I’m happy with that, because it’s decently paid, unlike journalism, and because I’ve learned a lot. Looking forward to reading the novel; I am sure you’ll have done a fantastic job.

Inspiring – as ever! I will click on the video as soon as I can today!

It’s very hard to ignore those voices. But you must. Well done. Now, let’s see… [looks at Unbound, pledges, then moments later] Convinced me!

I get the same negative voice too JP, have the crisis of confidence and do it anyway is the best way to go. xxx

I’ll click and have a look. Good luck with it! I think it’s brilliant that you’re redefining yourself post-journalism. I’m trying to do the same and have just the same feelings as you. But why stay in a profession that’s dying, and full of depressed people? It’s like being a miner in the 1980s. Much better to move on. Onwards and upwards, I say!

“How dare you write a historical novel you bastard?” Gosh… I’m so sorry J-P… You put the negative voice out into the aether and then it came through me. I shall disinfect myself…. I think the negative voice thing is a great topic, BTW, and one we can all relate to. Do you ever think part of the problem is psychotherapy, which makes us think that, if we have a bad thought, we must talk it out, and thus the bad thought makes its way once again over the surface of our brain, like a crab scuttling across a rock pool? I say squelch that bad thought. As an outsider, a mere admirer of the Flintoff oeuvre – I’m probably typical of a typical punter who might know a bit about you, and would therefore be interested in your book – I can see no reason on earth why you see a contradiction between writing a non-fiction book, or writing a historical novel. Good luck with it! Good luck with squelching! I shall now click and see which of your books I shall read first x



I am SO glad I sent that message. Is there a message that YOU could send, telling people what you are up to, and sharing a few anxieties about it? Please leave a comment below – you might give courage to somebody else.

And if you feel like joining my growing army of interesting and attractive micro-publishers, click here to find out how.

Posted: November 18, 2014