Lucy Mangan: Guardian Columnist, Stylist Columnist And Book Writer Talks To TQC About Career Change, Motivations And Napping


1. Tell us about you- what motivates you?

Honestly? Money. I’ve earned my own money, and loved earning my own money, since I got my first Saturday job at 15. When I was 16 my teacher told me I had to stop working or drop an A-level, so I dropped the A-level (history). I don’t come from a poor family but neither is it one with lots of ‘spare’ cash sloshing about. It’s one where what you earn – and what you save out of that for the future, carefully – is what you have and you can take pride in anything you buy with it (be it stuff or self-protection) because your own efforts made it. I’ve never had any grand plan or ambition in an abstract sense. I never thought I’d be a writer, so I’d just like to be able to keep doing this job, something I like to do and – I think – am good at and which keeps me financially secure. That’s the dream.

2. What does a day in your life look like?

A bad one is lots of different bits of work with short deadlines squeezed in between bouts of childcare, admin, cooking, laundry and other bollocks. A good one is long stretches of decent writing (or research for the book I’m currently working on, about children’s literature) time interrupted only by cups of tea and maybe a walk round the park if the weather’s good. The former drive me fucking demented, the latter happen too rarely to be restorative. But most days are somewhere in between. I am permanently in need of a three hour nap but I manage to limit the fulfilment of this desire to about once a month. Twice, tops.

3. What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Left a career in the law to become a freelance writer. I shit myself daily still.

4. Tell us about your relationship to change?

Hate it. Fear it. Not built for it. Go to great lengths to arrange my life so that it does not occur. Will accept it only with the greatest reluctance and resentment.

5. Who is your role model and why?

I don’t have one. I know we’re all supposed to but I don’t. I don’t think I’ve ever looked for them. I have friends I admire hugely for who they are, what they’ve done, how they approach various aspects of life, but they are mostly ones I made in later life when the need for role models has passed.

6. What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve read, seen or done in the last month?

Apparently, the futurist Alvin Toffler asks Fortune 500 CEOs who bring him in as a consultant to their businesses and so on, “How productive do you think your workforce would be if it wasn’t toilet-trained?” It’s a way of making people think about how much we take for granted, especially when it comes to women’s unpaid work, and how just because things some how go unseen and unrewarded they can nevertheless be impossibly valuable. We should all, as women, remember that when we come to evaluate our own worth in a job or situation, and in the wider context too. Also, it gives me hope that when print does finally die and I can no longer make a living, I could retrain as “a futurist.” What a time to be alive. What a time to be alive.