“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…
Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.
When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man.
He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”
Hello bookish friends. I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to a #damppebblestakeover, hoorah! I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog, the fabulous S.E. Lynes. Back in yesteryear (2016 to be precise), I was asked to join a blog tour for a book called Valentina. It was the author’s debut and that author was S.E. Lynes. The book blew my mind! Since signing last year with Bookouture, Susie’s books have gone from strength to strength culminating recently with Bookouture republishing the mighty Valentina. But things haven’t stopped there. On Friday 21st September Susie’s latest release with Bookouture was published, The Proposal. I am absolutely kicking myself as I am monumentally behind in my reading at the moment but The Proposal is riding high on the TBR and I hope to bring you a review sooner rather than later. But until then you can enjoy a brilliant guest post from the author herself. Without further ado, I’ll hand over to S.E. Lynes…
The first question I ask my writing students is not why do you write but why don’t you?
Why don’t you write?
Their answers are variations on the same themes: ‘no time,’ ‘I’m worried I don’t have a story,’ ‘I’m scared people will think it’s rubbish,’ ‘I doubt I’ve got anything interesting to say …’
Pushing the old ‘no time’ chestnut to one side … that’s a whole other article … you will notice words like worried, scared, and doubt. How then do I get these would-be writers to put words on a page? How on earth do I get them to read those words aloud to their classmates?
Well, firstly, I have to get them to acknowledge their insecurities and see them in a different way. And they’ve already taken that step: voicing their worries aloud and realising that everyone else is worrying about the same things. The relief is palpable.
I didn’t write. For years. I was too full of insecurity. And then I did write, but I threw my work away. All of it. Why? Because nothing I wrote compared favourably to my favourite authors, to say the least. My conclusion ran something like: my work isn’t as good as theirs, therefore my work isn’t good at all, ergo, I’m not good. Needless to say, this kind of insecurity was not helpful.
I used to think the answer lay in getting rid of insecurity and reaching a place where I was completely confident. Because being completely confident is possible, right? After all, here we are, in an internet world of bumper sticker philosophies and motivational poster-bites which tell us to believe in ourselves, to be strong, to shine, to be different, to let our weirdness show … whatever. I have no problem with these slogans. In fact, I find their axe-to-crack-a-hazelnut approach a great antidote to my own personal brand of the heebie-jeebies. However, sometimes you feel insecure, you just do, and when that happens, those slogans can compound your insecurity by making you feel inadequate about feeling insecure in the first place. Sheesh! That’s not so helpful! What can be helpful, to me at least, is to embrace my insecurity and use it … and I try and pass that on to my students.
In class, the first thing I try and banish is the ‘my work is not good therefore I am not good’ equation and make a new one along the lines of ‘my work is not good – yet – therefore I need to study and practise’. No writer comes to their first page and dashes off a masterpiece. Well, there might be a few, but they are a very small minority and I blow a raspberry in their general direction. For the rest of us, when faced with the blank page, the pressure to shine is the death of creativity. If you’re trying to shine, you’re not learning. You’re not thinking about your characters and how they see the world. You’re not wondering where they were when they told their wife about the dead body in the bathroom or what they were doing/thinking when they said that. So, in the creative writing classroom, the spirit needs to be not ‘check this out, it’s pretty flipping awesome’ but ‘this is what I’m trying to do, how can I improve it?’ That requires removing your ego from the equation. It’s not about you! It’s about the work! THAT is helpful. THAT is a place of learning.
I encourage my students to think about writing as oboe practice. To write every day not to produce something great but to become a little bit better than last time. And in order to see the need to practice they need to be able to see their work as ‘not good’ or ‘not good enough’ in the right way. They need to embrace the right kind of insecurity.
So, on the cusp of publishing my fourth book and after some lovely reviews, am I able to say ‘I am good’? Good God, no! If I say that, I am dead creatively. None of my books are as good as I want them to be. If I’m proud of them it is because they are the best that I could possibly do at the time. Whatever I do next, I will try to do better. I will read my work back and think, no, not good enough. But I will not sit in a corner and weep. Well, I might, but after that I will return to it and think, how can I improve it? In practical terms, this might be cutting the dialogue back, or showing the character through an action, or upping the tension. In personal terms, it is using insecurity in the right way, using the critical voice constructively.
But maybe the question here, for all of us, is not why don’t we write but why don’t we do whatever it is we dream of doing? Releasing into the world the work you have sweated and fretted over is a risk. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. Getting on stage is the same. Ditto singing in public. But if you think about it hard enough – and boy, do I ever – walking out of your front door is a risk, isn’t it? What if no one likes you? What if you say the wrong thing? What if your skirt is tucked into the back of your knickers? We are all of us worried about something. But if we can acknowledge our insecurity and realise everyone else feels it too, we can be kind in our intentions towards others and most importantly towards ourselves. We can relax and create the space we need to improve, in whatever it is we’re aiming to do.
Thank you so much for this insightful and inspiring post, Susie. Dear reader, I hope, if you’re a budding writer, that you’ve taken note. And as Susie said in her piece, the same applies to us all in whatever we dream of doing. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |
After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.