Why the new name?

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The old name of this writing school, Story Is a State of Mind, was feeling off track because of two words: “Story” and “Mind.”

“Story” has been co-opted by business for persuasive purposes. The word is everywhere: brand stories, Instagram stories, Facebook stories. When I spotted this store I knew “story” was on a journey far away from the magic of books; it had passed seamlessly into the material world.

It’s nobody’s fault. Sales and marketing isn’t bad, it’s just insatiable and sneaky. I get why brands love building stories — people are hard-wired to pay attention to narrative. It works.

I’m a classic girl — you won’t see me wearing a sweater with holes cut out of the shoulders. I like serif fonts, watches with two hands, and books that are printed. I loathe a trend. And the word “story” is way past trendy now; it’s become a cliche.

“Mind” is not always helpful to writers, either. It’s our mind that can get us into trouble, when we overthink things. Our mind can really screw things up for us when it tells us, “My sister is the writer in the family, not me.” Or, “Everything has already been written. I’m unoriginal.” Or, “I can’t write fiction because I can’t make things up.”

So you see why the name of my writing school needed to change.

My teaching philosophy is rooted in love and spirit.

For a long time, these two words sounded flaky to the Serious Writer (read: inner critic) inside me. I want to back up even now, to restate how much skill and technique is involved in my teaching!

But as I get older and understand more about my process, I can’t ignore the truth. Good technique is necessary, but love and spirit are the forces that have always supported me as a writer, since I was very young. To turn away from love and spirit in my teaching is to tell myself a lie.

Haven’t we all read those well-written books that use technique cleverly, but still leave us feeling unmoved? What’s missing from those perfect books?

As much as I love universities as places of learning technique — and I do! — love and spirit are missing from most academic programs, including those in the creative arts.

Think of a teacher who changed your life for the better. (I hope you’ve had at least one). I’m willing to bet that they were teaching you from a heart-centred place.

I think teaching without love and spirit is a disservice, especially to creatives.

A compassionate learning space is not a soft, disorganized, or ineffective learning place. It is, in fact, the very best place for learning. We know this.

Be who you are.

We know, as writers, that words are only placeholders for meaning — they aren’t the meaning themselves. It’s not like “love” and “spirit” haven’t been co-opted for persuasive purposes, either. I wanted to find words to describe how I teach, and still have space for how I’m going to learn and evolve in the future.

The simplest way to put my philosophy directly in line with the school was to be myself: Sarah Selecky.

You know who I am, you know my writing and thinking style, you know my opinions and methods, you know the people I love to work with. You know that I’m always learning and growing. You know what’s important to me. You know what I care about.

That’s what you’ll be getting at this school: even more of the above. But now, I’m just calling it what it is: the Sarah Selecky Writing School.

Watch for one more blog post next week: I’ll show you around the site so you can refresh your relationship with the courses, articles, and resources here.

Meanwhile, if you aren’t already, I invite you to follow posts from SSWS on Instagram and Facebook.

With love,

Sarah Selecky



Who are you writing for? Women’s fiction and the Inner Critic.
What’s changed, and what hasn’t changed.

3 comments

Nancy A Squires

I love what you've said in this post about your writing philosophy--probably because I love your philosophy. Thanks for insisting on "bringing it back around" to love and spirit, and thanks for starting and continuing to offer the Sarah Selecky Writing School.
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Rachel Ball

Sarah, I love the new writing school name and the new website look! You are, and will always be, such an inspiration to me.
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Stephen D. Forman

We can always count on thoughtful, first-class results no matter what you set your mind to! Not only is it readily apparent what you offer (a "Writing School") but who is the force behind it ("Sarah Selecky"), neither of which was obvious in the otherwise approachable "Story is a State of Mind." If you're correct that the word "story" has peaked or been co-opted by sneaky forces, that's unfortunate. I would argue that its commercial history is older than this post-post-post era we find ourselves in. When I was a lad, my insurance salesman father taught me, "People don't buy insurance: they buy stories." That was decades ago, and I think he probably got it from W. Clement Stone from the 1920's or 30's. (The adage is also super true.) Just last weekend I finally had a chance to listen to your Masterclass with Peter Levitt. What a clever mind! Although I've heard you talk about "Source" many times, I've not been entirely sure what you meant-- but it started to gel after this interview. I bring this up only because I think-- and please correct me if I'm wrong-- that this interview also raises the concept of "State of Mind," and your rationale behind the erstwhile name. Which is all neither here nor there-- only my own moment to shout at the cat, "Eureka, I get it!" (Only to see the name change a week later... a bit of irony allowing me to shout at the dog, "Did you see that?") To you and your steadfast team-- may the new name bring you good fortune!
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