The Road to Becoming a Writer: an Interview with Lauren Rae

Lauren Rae is one to watch. The twenty-something writer and author is currently based in Munich, where she is working on her next book, Love, Wine & Other Highs. Her first memoir, I’m Not A Writer - which she self-published on a limited print run in 2019 - completely sold out and her second memoir will be published by Little A in 2022. Lauren’s journalistic musings have been featured on Elle UK, Stylist Magazine and Refinery29, to name just a few, and her newsletter, lol so i wrote a newsletter, provides comic relief for the trials and tribulations of modern life. She writes about everything from friendship red flags to why Carrie Bradshaw is the worst character of all time.

I spoke to Lauren to find out more about both of her books, her experience with imposter syndrome and the road to becoming a writer.

I’d love to know more about your first book, I’m Not A Writer. Publishing a book yourself is a bold thing to do and I’m keen to hear more about the process. How did you come to the decision to self-publish, and what were the highs and lows of doing so?

My first book I’m Not A Writer was pretty much a catalyst for everything to date. I started writing it as a means of therapy for my breakup (or rather, the breakup I was about to go through) and so a lot of it was super personal about love, loss and growing up in Britain in the early 2000s. It was a very hands-on process so I wrote it, my friend Jordan taught me how to design it on InDesign and then my friend Ozlem created all of the chapter images, some of which you can still find on my Instagram. I decided to go the self-published route because I was very aware that being as super under the radar as I was back then wasn’t ever going to get my writing noticed and it was my last edged attempt at trying to become a real writer. I had a lot of rejection with my written work up to that point so it was sort of like the final attempt to make a go of things.

Imposter syndrome had me in a death grip because even at the final hurdle I wanted to turn around and say, “never mind guys, not selling it lol,” and I’m so glad I didn’t give up in the end.

The highs were definitely the reception I received once I posted the teaser and the lows were pre-self-promotion because I was so worried about the reception it might receive after the teaser, then again when a book sold and again once they received their copy. I imagined I’d be standing on a stage wearing a dunce cone hat while the Twitter elite pointed and laughed at me in slow motion. Admittedly my extensive overthinking was the lowest low because I led myself to believe it wouldn’t sell even a single copy. But when it completely sold out, I was so overwhelmed.

Your second book, Love, Wine and Other Highs, will be published by Little A next year. What can you tell us about the coming book, and were there any lessons you learned from I’m Not A Writer that you’re taking into writing this one?

Yes, I’m so excited! And nervous, but mostly excited! I delve pretty deep into my life over the years and there are more than enough awkward life occurrences to fill each page. It’s a love letter to those ‘figuring it out’ years and all the nostalgia that comes with remembering them.

I learned a lot over this process, mainly how helpful having an editor on board can be. I did everything copy-wise on my own the last time, so it’s really refreshing to have someone to be like, “no mate, this ain’t it” and giving me constant support, as opposed to second-guessing myself right the way through. I feel like the process as a whole has made me a better writer. In fact, I often read my first book back and I’m cringed by how open I was or how I phrased certain things, but I think re-reading my old words has helped me through writing my second book because I now know what I don’t want in a book made by me.

In your April newsletter, you wrote about the constant battle between writing and self-esteem, which I think is relatable in any kind of creative pursuit. Writing is often a solitary activity and I imagine that writing a memoir can at times be a particularly emotionally challenging form of writing. Do you have any specific ways of dealing with these challenges?

I was talking to my friend about this recently and he told me off by saying that I need to learn to separate myself from my art and that’s definitely something I’m learning to adapt to.

I think it was quite difficult digging deep into a lot of the memories I’d buried over the years, but would make for quality content. This time around writing a book, while isolating, didn’t feel as lonely because I had a team on hand to guide me through the process. I procrastinated a bit out of a fear of failure, but I found writing at night alongside cans of RedBull and Kiefer’s greatest hits almost therapeutic. My biggest learning curve was adopting perseverance because I had to force myself into finishing sections by bribing myself with sweets or takeaways… or wine. So I guess my coping methods were sweet treats and terrible foods.

I won’t sit here and pretend I didn’t cry through several of the chapters though, because writing about your own life can be quite taxing, but my main character syndrome makes me believe that crying over my book while writing it equals great content.

And has this struggle eased at all since the success of your first memoir and the upcoming publication of the second one?

In all honesty, I think I’ll always be nervous about the release of something I write. I even get stomach cramps when I send out a newsletter. So I’m not sure the struggle has eased, but I do feel far more supported which helps massively. At this point, I'm a regular passenger on the struggle bus and have a discounted travel ticket.

You moved from London to Munich in 2019 and you’ve been living and working there ever since. How has the experience of living abroad, particularly through the pandemic, been for you and how do you feel it’s shaped your experience as a writer?

It’s a weird one because I have loved living abroad, but equally, I am routinely homesick. I’ve definitely grown up a lot over my time living in Germany. I wasn’t particularly independent when I lived at home in London and relied heavily on my parents for things like a cheeky lift to the tube station or convincing my mum to order the family a takeaway so that I didn’t have to spend on my single person’s salary. Because of this, moving out and to an entirely different country is probably the most adult thing I’ve ever done.

I moved just before the pandemic so my journey was just anxiously and awkwardly making acquaintances. But when the pandemic hit it was the most isolating experience ever. It felt like 28 Days Later, where I forgot what backs felt like because of the severe lack of human interaction. But post-pandemic I was so excited (and nervous) to get back out and grab life by the balls that I really began to experience life as an expat and I think this is all reflected in the copy I’ve created more recently. Munich is a super quiet and quaint little city and as it happens was the perfect setting to my Carrie Diaries of writing my memoir. Because of its severely lacking nightlife, many of my nights were spent creating, critiquing and writing when the LIDL closed dead at 8 pm. Being an adult (adult) has completely shaped my experience as a writer because my well-documented problems transitioned from, "Pfft! Can't even get a text back," to "Oh fuck! did I remember to pay the water bill?" Which I'm kind of into.

I personally cannot wait to read Love, Wine and Other Highs. Can you tell us a bit about your plans post-publication and what you hope the future holds now that you are officially one-hundred percent a real writer?

I’ll always be writing, that’s for sure. In terms of post-publication plans and the future? We shall have to see, but perhaps I’ll finally change my username to iAMawriterrr.

Interview by Annabel White