“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #26 – Sarah Michelle Lynch

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They say I’m doing well…

So, what does this mean to me…?

I could relay you a million stories, about people I’ve known or met in passing. I have one of those minds; I remember lots of little details people tell me and they always come in useful when I’m writing. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I could tell you someone else’s story, but how about telling you mine?

I’ve never been ill (touch wood). I did however come close to serious injury in a car crash once but walked away fine. I have never suffered a mental health issue myself. But behind some smiles, there are those of us who have watched others suffer and when you don’t have a mental health issue yourself, it is really hard to understand what someone else is going through when you can’t see into their head. The mind is not an exact science.

From my point of view, a lot of people assume Sarah Michelle Lynch is together and has it sorted. It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. A part of me will admit that I’ve shirked away from trying to understand the problems people around me have been going through. I’ve shied away from trying to get them to talk about their issues, but maybe that’s just because I cannot empathise entirely. For so many years, I was occupied by an overwhelming sense of ambition to be the beacon my family needed me to be. It’s the curse of your twenties to try to be all things to all people. At the end of the day, I’m just me, and I am happy to have come to that acceptance.

I often write stories about struggle, about deceit, about lies and secrecy, but my life is pretty normal and boring really. In the past few years, since I started writing actually, I’ve learned to be very grateful for having a positive attitude. Give me a pen and a pad of paper and I am happy. I can write anywhere. My Happy is portable. A chocolate bar and a cup of tea too wouldn’t go amiss. That ability of mine to just be happy is something I never saw any value in – until I realised a lot of people find it difficult to even get out of bed some days.

Whether you have a mental health issue or not, we’re all just people, striving for the same things. Love and understanding. Life is hard, nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Journeys of self-discovery can be debilitating for a time, in fact, but I firmly believe knowledge and awareness can empower and help people to rebuild and renew.

I always tell myself it is important to remember what I’ve overcome to bring me to the point where I’m at now. This point. At this moment in time. I put myself through university when I could have easily given up and got a manager’s job at the place I worked part-time during that period. There were times when I wanted to quit, to give up, but I didn’t. I wasn’t the only one – loads of my friends were putting themselves through university too. We did it and came out stronger for it.

I was the first person in my family to go to university. Let me put that into perspective for you. My maternal grandfather was illiterate. My mum got her GCSE in English in her thirties! (mega proud of her by the way!) My parents are both from broken homes. My mum, fostered when she was four, lost two elder brothers, before she was put with a family that didn’t really want her and my auntie. My dad grew up in poverty, suffering like you would never imagine he had. My grandmother was a manic depressive and back in those days, it wasn’t dealt with like it would be today. My grandfather turned a blind eye; he was a womaniser who abandoned my dad and his brother to the mindset of a seriously ill woman who rarely washed, rarely fed her kids, rarely tried to instil in them any sense of decency. I’m the eldest of four kids myself. School friends used to meet my dad and think we were posh. He’s an intelligent man, but he has never been posh. Not many know the full story. Not many people know how my parents struggled to bring us all up, without grandparents to help out. They struggled. I know, because I remember. I was there. I know about the mindset of poverty and how difficult it has been for my dad, especially, to let go of.

Academia is a different world to the one I was born into. Yet in a lot of ways, it saved me. Getting my degree was the biggest achievement I made, up until that point anyway. Nobody on God’s Earth can take it away from me.

After university I did what I always said I was going to do and I worked in journalism for seven years. I learned more in this job than I had learnt in my life before that. My degree gave me a foundation, as did the various part-time jobs I’d done along the way, but I didn’t learn anything until I worked in journalism, which opened my eyes to the human race in all its varying degrees.

I worked with many talented people that might never fulfil their promise because of how truly scary it is to put yourself out there with a piece of work that means more than a pay check. Stories of unlikely heroes and heroines fascinate me because you don’t know if a future star might be sitting next to you in the next office cubicle. We all have the potential for greatness, there’s often just a lot of luck involved and knowing the right people.

I went back to journalism after maternity leave and found five or six people doing my old job. Eventually leaving that job was the best thing I ever did.

I wrote my first novel when I was just twenty-eight. The adrenalin of completing that was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Like a lot of other self-published authors, I found friends and family responded to my new pursuit in various ways. Real friends celebrate you, while others fall by the wayside as you pursue your dream.

I’ve known for quite some time that I was born to write, and the notion grows stronger all the time with every word I put down, with every other author I work with thanking me for helping them.

I’ve always known my destiny is words and it’s something you can put alongside my name.

But even with all my confidence and vigour for this writing lark, I still have days where words don’t flow, where I doubt myself. But it’s okay, and I take the rough with the smooth. My ambition has lessened as my love for the art has grown.

Since I’ve joined the book community and spoken to people like me, I’ve realised how words have the power to do good. I’ve adapted my writing style a lot over the years after realising I actually have a power at my fingertips to do good and it’s why I keep writing. Why I decided to do an event like this.

At the same time, I realise how the world demands, how it requires and takes and manipulates the truth of an artist’s soul for its own ends. Which is why I asked all the authors taking part to write something with regards to, “They Say I’m Doing Well,” because people’s definition of that varies. Ask yourself about doing well… Does doing well mean earning big bucks, having all the letters after your name, or does doing well translate to literally everything? Health, wealth, prospects? What?

I feel that this world can be harsh and cruel because we forget that we’re all human – most of us – and to err is to be human. There’s no formula; no recipe for success, or personal happiness.

They say I’m doing well but some days, I wake up and don’t like what I see in the mirror. Some days I don’t want to write because it all feels like sludge between my fingers. I question myself all the time: do I speak to my friends enough? Is Andy okay? Is Serena doing well at school? Am I doing enough? All these things are normal, but if they become consuming, that’s when you know you have to take a step back and retrace. Ask yourself, is there really a reason for me to worry? Focus on a good thing, a place you can take your mind to, and reorganise everything back to that safe place. I never knew these were invaluable tools I’d had in use for so many years until I watched someone close to me crumble. And it changed me, too. It made me realise that what you give, you get back tenfold, and when you walk the path together it’s so much more interesting than going it alone.

None of us are perfect. None of us. Some of us might be doing “well”, whatever your definition of well is, but then again, we’re all human and all have our crosses to bear – I try to remember that everyday. I see people who appear confident but a tiny fracture in their defences allows me to see that they’re not at all fixed or whole. They’re broken, but in time and with the right love and support, they’ll heal. It’s funny how we judge people on first impressions but how, when we really get to know them, we begin to associate colours and patterns with them instead of faces. We no longer see the outside, but the inside. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know someone though, they sometimes go right on to surprise the hell out of you.

The one thing I will pass on to my daughter is this… never give up on learning. Never. I didn’t. I will not, either. Education… it’s the basis of our civilisation, of making this world better… and doing it all in the name of people that didn’t have the same choices we have.

To round off my contribution to the blog tour, I have written you a poem. Poetry is a medium I don’t get on with sometimes. For me, it bites at me, eats me away. I find it harder to write poetry than novels. A poem sometimes stews in my recesses for weeks before I just write it. I will write it flat out, and that will be it. A poem’s a bunch of feelings condensed, with the potential for so many different interpretations. Poetry, for me, is real. Poetry protects. Poetry reveals our innards and I know why a lot of people struggling with their mindset write poetry, to get it out there… to expel, in order to digest.

So, here we go…

They Say I’m Doing Well

Caress my hair around my ears

I lay my head awhile on your lap

Silence pervades the air and still

We tell each other more than

Words could ever tell

*

Soothe my aches with your hands

Take my soul in your arms

And keep me safe there

I won’t tell if you don’t

Secrets we keep behind our eyes

 *

In front of the telly we stare

But we’re together, so it’s okay

Flimflam words don’t matter

Because it’s just time together

And time’s all that matters

 *

You’re the strength beyond

My fingertips, the one always there

You silence my worries, hear my cries

You cradle my neuroses and nurture them

Loving all of me as you do

 *

He is wise and kind and soulful

He carries me on his back

He has peccadilloes of his own

Which I love in return

And together we reign supreme

*

You struggled, you overcame

You’ve known pain and anguish

Disappointment and deceit

And came out the other side

Much stronger than people realise

*

They say I’m doing well

But it’s the strength you give to me

I couldn’t do all this without the struggle,

And without the journey…

We wouldn’t have the dream

Sarah Michelle Lynch © 2016

author bio

Sarah Michelle Lynch wakes up in the morning and the first thing on her mind is words and the possibility of reading and writing more and more words. She is a little bit obsessed.

A career in journalism preceded Sarah’s writing career as an Independent author and despite an offer to get published, Sarah found it very difficult to let go of the freedom, variety and creativity self-publishing allows her.

When Sarah’s not reading words, she’s editing them, and when she’s not editing she’s writing. These days, to earn her right to write, she freelances as an editor.

DONATE BUTTON

To see the full list of authors taking part in this month-long blog tour, [click here]

To find out what “They Say I’m Doing Well” is all about, [click here]

Please press the donate button if you were inspired by my words. Here’s what your donations could achieve:

£8.70 gives a lifeline to someone in desperate need of support by letting the Mind Infoline team take their call

£30 could help Mind work with the Government to promote mental health needs and improve services for years to come

£150 could fund a local support group and let people living with mental health problems get back their confidence and self-esteem

£250 could fund equipment for an art therapy group, so that people can express their feelings through art and start the healing process

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#MondayBlogs – Why Write Serials?

Many modern authors (myself included) have been accused of writing serials and I quote “to earn more money” from eBook sales (I BLOODY WISH). So when my husband (and editor) suggested I write this blog post, I thought why not?

So, serials. Personally I’ve read quite a few erotic serials. I like them. It can feel a treat to download a series in one go because serials are quick to write and quick to read. Serials by nature are full of suspense and keep you wanting more. Good serials even keep you coming back to re-read them. I understand the appetite amongst readers for serials. Sometimes, a short is just what we want and need—a break from the heavy novels we might otherwise be absorbing ourselves in.

One of the most famous serials of all is Sherlock Holmes, serialised in various publications. There are many more short stories in the Holmes collection than there are novels. It worked! People still love Holmes to this day. My husband has the anthology and has read the whole collection. In winter on a stormy night, we often pull out the Jeremy Brett DVDs but I am also partial to a bit of Cumberbatch, too (aside from the last episode of the most recent series, but that is another matter…)

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Why did it work for Holmes, then? Well, he was/is a well-loved character and sometimes, people just want a short story to get their teeth into on a bus/train journey or over a nice hot cup of tea on a rainy afternoon. A short story can be a real treat because you know it won’t take long to read and it doesn’t feel such a commitment, therefore it’s more casually enjoyed. When the main character is already established, too, there is no need for the wider context to be expanded and therefore, a reader can get stuck in straight away.

I’ve always been told writing short stories is a great way to hone your craft. For years I avoided short stories though, because I felt I would be contained by them. What I realised when I finally sat down to write a short story, was that when you’re dealing with something in the 20 to 40,000 word region than say 100,000, you write tighter and neater. It’s a psychological thing. You also unconsciously strive to achieve more within that smaller word count. Over time I’ve come to appreciate that working on a few different projects at once can enlighten the whole process you’re going through as a writer. You can work on something else if your current WIP has come to a standstill. Different skills enrich the whole—and everything becomes so streamlined, the number of drafts you find yourself producing lessens and lessens.

1512754_578804148893013_2097469514533575279_nAs a reader, sometimes I want to be shocked and taken on an unexpected journey and I think short stories are the format for some of the more adventurous tales out there. Plus, short stories allow the reader so much input of their own. Personally I’m finding writing short stories liberating and the scope to take characters onwards and develop their back stories is so exciting.

Sometimes a writer just needs a bit of R&R, just like a reader does. Some readers don’t have time to dedicate themselves to a novel, some readers find staring at words for long periods of time difficult. Often, I put books up for FREE and I do so to engage a readership and introduce a character or a story.

Sometimes, we just want to write something fun and frivolous and sometimes, just sometimes, other people get onboard with a serialisation. The beauty of a serial is you don’t know where it is going to go and anything could happen. The series could develop into something beyond your wildest dreams, and all from a little seed you sowed with the thought, I’m just going to write this and have fun!

2328ea02b397fa3f8b59fd74a55ace49Why do I write? I ask this question all the time because I constantly need to remind myself (writing is genuinely hard, day in, day out, but a writer writes because it’s who they are). I write to be free and I write because I know each time I put my hands to the keys, I’m constantly finding more in the tanks. Sometimes you just don’t know the value of something until you embrace it. I just look at the likes of Sylvia Day and I can totally appreciate why even she wants to write serials, still. After all, why do marathon runners not bother with 26-mile training sessions? At the end of the day, whether we are very successful or have a small, loyal readership, we’re all just writers beneath and the writer we start out as is the person to some extent we will always remain. Pressure and expectation added, it becomes a whole new ballgame of course, but we’re still just writers. We embark on a writing life with nothing but a glint in our eyes and a hope in our hearts and in the beginning everything comes from the very earnest parts of ourselves, until we learn how to hone.

You give an animal a cage and one day, they are going to try to escape. You give them some toys, but one day they are going to get bored of them. It’s the same as branding a writer a novelist or an essayist or a playwright or whatever. Call someone a poet but be prepared to be shocked if they one day produce a novel instead. Readers and sometimes the hype machine makes an author, it is that simple. But make an author all about Harry Potter and she might have to use a nom de plume when she wants to write something else. Because at the end of the day, JKR is still that author she started out as with just a wing and a prayer and her love of words. Giving a writer success is beautiful and scary and something I deeply fear because I’m a writer at the end of the day and to be told I can’t write this or that, or being held hostage by a publishing contract… would be like clipping the wings from a bird and telling them to get used to walking. To be judged so heavily on what I’ve written before would probably shake my love of this altogether. The opportunity to experiment is a privilege and it’s why writers have pseudonyms. Many of us write serials or companion novellas or prequels or whatever, because many, many readers like to read the extra added details. Variety is the spice of life and without it, there really wouldn’t be any creativity.

Why Do I Write? A Blog Hop…

Thank you Charming Man for asking me to do this Blog Hop. Pay Charming Man, also known as A S Wilkins, a visit to see why he writes! I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his comments on this subject, and more besides.

I too have been asked a number of times to explain why I write. I have even wrote poetry about why I write! It does seem to vary from writer to writer but ultimately we all seem to have the same goals in mind: we have something to say, we have a shared enjoyment of forming stories and we wouldn’t mind one day seeing our words on shelves.

I have written professionally since my early twenties and now in my early thirties… well… you get the picture. My words had been out there for years before I began writing creatively. When I first started getting paid for writing, I thought it was such a novelty because writing has always been something I have enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t ever get paid much for writing. Not unless you drop lucky with the right thing at the right time. Those stories are very few and far between. Apparently the average novelist earns about £11,000 a year but that is of course an average. I earned more than that writing TV magazine features.

Why I write? I guess writing is installed in me like WiFi is in nearly every home in the land these days. I was told from a really early age that I could write and I knew that how I felt when I wrote was what made it special, because… this is where it is hard to explain… it feels good to write and it feels, basically, REAL. It’s hard to put it into words even though I am meant to be a wielder of words! LOL. Like I said, so many teachers actually sat me down and said with a restrained smirk, “You do know you can write?” I would sit and gawp, inwardly think they were deranged, and ask, “What do you mean I can write?” Then they would say, “Not many people can write.” Over the years I got to realise exactly what they meant because the formation of sentence structure and all that is really a struggle for some whose brains are wired differently, but obviously my brain is wired toward words. Don’t ask me why. I know I am certainly not wired properly in other ways… not that I am crazy! Okay, maybe just a bit! I just can’t sing and I don’t think I will ever be able to draw.

My story began on maternity leave. I wrote a sci-fi series with a baby attached to me. It was an idea that had been brewing in my mind for so long and when I gave birth, it brewed some more and when my daughter began sleeping, it got put down on a page. Writing those books was like breathing, to me, and not writing them was not even a possibility. I had to write those books. Even when I went back to work, I found time to write. I made time. It was hard but I enjoyed it so much. Whenever I finish a novel, I think, “Not again, not again,” but if an idea starts to brew and I start to think about where I could take it, that’s what pushes me on to write again. So I guess one of the essential reasons I write is that there are always paths to venture down and you never know where you may end up. I like writing stories a little differently, sometimes… testing what I can and can’t get away with in terms of exposition. It’s the pattern and the puzzle and the arrangement I like. That’s what I can get involved with, anytime, anywhere. That’s how I know wherever I am, whatever point in my life I’m at, I’ll always make time to write even if it’s just a few paragraphs each day. Because it’s having that chance to explore and play with words—and that is something I truly, truly love.

One thing I will say is that it took me a long time to snap from journalist to creative writer. As a journalist you are taught to shed all the nuances of your writing and to hone everything so that you present the details in as few words as possible. That was a hard thing to learn and to some extent, I had to unlearn that when I came to writing novels. Writers are told they should start small and work their way up from say short stories or poetry but I honestly just had this story in my mind that was so big, I had to get it down and there was no build-up—the result a 100,000-word beast that was my first novel and my first creative outing too.

My latest book features a journalist. She is happy enough to plod along until someone says, “You know what? You can do better.” I think writers write and continue to write according to response and approval, too. Many writers would argue they only improve through their readers and from feedback. That is why I think writers just have to keep writing and why every word counts, because it could lead to a monumental paragraph or sentence, even. If you stand there thinking, Shall I pick up the pen? you probably never will. I know that I wouldn’t have kept writing novels with such verve unless I’d gotten such positive feedback. Some people have even come to me after reading A Fine Profession and said, “I am going to change my life now after reading that.” Some books aren’t easy books but you just know that it feels right to write, at that point in time.

The mind of a writer and a writer’s life is explored in more depth in, UNBIND… for details visit http://wp.me/P39fPt-aB or Amazon here… http://mybook.to/unbind ‒ RELEASED ON OCTOBER 20th!!

I now hope these three authors will tell us more about why they write. Find out more about their writing here:

Traci Sanders: www.awordwithtraci.com

Stevie Turner: http://www.stevie-turner-author.co.uk/

Blake Rivers: blakerivers.com

Sarah Lynch is attending the Orchard Book Signing in March next year. Visit their website for more details… http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/orchard-book-club-author-event-ball-tickets-11853288505