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Shield or Sword

I have often hidden behind the thing I love. For me, it’s always been about self-protection through words. Before I was even using a laptop, I had the screen of words to protect me from things – from anti-semitic comments at school which I’d rebuke with humour, to how I’d win an argument with my brother by throwing him the word ‘pontificate’ in there. Words have always protected me, they’ve always been my friend. But what if your words suddenly turn against you?

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Two weeks ago, I attended one of the best talks of my life. It was Tanya Gold, one of my favourite journalists, who famously got fired from the Daily Mail for submitting a ‘jolly’ piece on Nick Clegg, in ‘therapy’ with Liz Jones, infamous Daily Mail columnist. The event was hosted at the uber-trendy all-women pop-up The Other Club in Carnaby Street. If you haven’t been, I’d seriously look out for their talks next time. Liz Jones is the most highly paid journalist in the UK – bringing in a whopping £500,000 every year. And yet somehow she’s still broke. She claims it’s on security installed in her house after someone broke into her living room, and pelted her car with eggs, but one might also say that’s it’s on plastic surgery and shopping habit. She also has 100 animals. That might cost a bit.

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This is the lady than got a face lift for the papers

It was a tense room. Liz, someone who has caused public furore by writing an article documenting the shame of having to care for her sick mother, spilling her heart out to one of the most intelligent, story-savvy journalists in the UK. Everyone was ready to throw daggers at the woman who has talked so openly about anorexia, her love life and her family. And yet there was something surprisingly soft about Liz; through all the writing, the public slating, she’s managed to isolate herself from the world, and it’s really sad. As she openly admits herself: she has no family now.

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And it scared me. I spend my life looking for a story, hungry for experience, for travel, for sensations, just to put them into words. Is that wrong? Should it be the other way around – should I have experiences and then feel the need to write about them? But that’s the way it is. We cannot always fall into the path of great copy, and sometimes we need to put ourselves, at least, in its path. Which is why I found myself asking my mum to proof-read a feature for one of the biggest papers in the UK this evening on a story about how to seduce men. Because sometimes you have to try.

I'm a story-hungry Twilight extra

I’m a story-hungry Twilight extra

But I think we do have to be careful; when the world is hungry for sensation, it’s easy to give it to them. Is Liz Jones wrong for using her family problems as writing material? Should I blog about my ex? Who knows. The sphere between public and private is so blurred by social media, anyway, these days – that it’s difficult to know whether we’re only sharing things that have already been visible in one way or another. I wish these weren’t thoughts that troubled my at 2:42 AM on a Friday morning, but c’est la vie.

I’ve got a new piece up for The Telegraph, read it here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationpicturegalleries/10435826/Student-life-ten-unusual-degrees-you-never-knew-existed.html

No seduction stories in that one. Yet.

Liz Jones: love her or hate her? Join the conversation @jellymalin

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