Meet my Friend: Writer Lucy Webb
This is the start of a new series called Meet my Friend. The inspiration came from all the content I listen/watch that features interviews of famous or stereotypically successful people - which is great. I love hearing about the journeys of these incredible men and women who have often succeeded against the odds. But, some of the most life-changing and enriching conversations I've had have been with my humble group of friends from across the world.
This got me thinking what better way to showcase the lessons my wonderful friends have taught me and give a fuller picture of 20 year olds who are making it work than interviewing them one-on-one. We spend all day looking at social media and at people's highlight reel - why not get behind the image and unpick my friends’ fears, failures and hard-learned lessons?
Kicking things off is my writer's accountability club compadre and fiction-fanatic, Lucy Webb. I sat down with Lucy on a mild Tuesday afternoon in a busy, studenty part of Brussels. She was wearing a burgundy sweater, black-framed glasses and was dressed with her signature cheery smile. We got deep on topics ranging from childhood fears and second chances at student life to her death row meal. Trying to encapsulate Lucy in all her wondrous glory in one interview was an impossible task, but check it out.
What's your most cherished lessons your parents passed down?
We were never poor growing up, but we didn’t have lots of money to roll around in. Don't get me wrong, we had a nice place to live and everything that we needed, but my parents were otherwise very careful with their finances. Yet, one indulgence we always had room for was stories and imagination. Escapism if you like. We regularly went to see films, my dad read to me before bed, my house was full of books and generally creative expression was encouraged.
In a nutshell, they prioritised creativity and there was always room for what some people would consider unnecessary. As an adult that's something I’ve held onto. I think that’s why I value fiction, reading and writing and the artistic side of my life really highly. I know if I have kids that’s something I’d definitely like to pass on.
Looking back at your 16-year-old self what would you tell her?
You don’t need to act up to be heard. You don't have to be ashamed of the things you like just to fit in. Also, the coping mechanisms you have developed are not healthy so stop them before you start getting worse. Above all, make sure to value your friends - they have your back and the infinite time you think you have left together is running out.
Stuff like Friday night at Cesca's playing Kingdom Hearts. Saturdays spent in town drinking milkshakes and trying on stupid clothes. I didn’t value it until everyone moved away and now we have jobs and other commitments. The rare opportunities we have where we can all get together for a couple of hours I now cherish so much.
What did you not expect about student life before starting university?
I think I had a very idealized image of university - I think I thought it would be much more fast-paced and exciting that it actually is. Before I started I had very little frame of reference for student life, mainly TV, movies and my sister. My mental image was something like “we’re gonna drink every night and find out exactly who we are”. I thought we were supposed to love what we study and fall in love with people.
Basically, I assumed everything would fall into place without having to think about it. I guess in a way like an extension of childhood where all decisions will be made for you. So, it was a shock realizing things weren’t going to happen unless I made them - I wasn’t ready to deal with that time.
When's the last time you failed and why?
Going back to my first attempt at university, I sent myself off in a self-imposed exile to a place that I didn’t know very much about. Doing a subject that I’d sort of chosen on a whim, and I wasn’t going so much because I wanted to better myself, grow and meet people. Really I was going because I’d had a rough two years and to me going away was like running away from all that. I thought to myself that all these problems I don't want to deal with will go away if I move physically away. It was a tough lesson to learn how wrong I was. University is not some mystical portal to complete utter happiness and recklessness. I thought I would feel wild and free like a character in a John Green novel – except less sad. An expensive mistake considering I still have six weeks of unpaid fees.
That being said too much of what I like about my life now would not have happened had I not made that mistake. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives. At the time it was the worst thing ever and the worst part of it was I didn’t even know how to explain how I was feeling. Beyond homesick, more like what the hell am I doing? I had no desire to even attempt to get along at the university. I don’t think I even knew what was wrong – I deflected to friends blaming it on my course or homesickness. I guess maybe a year later it would’ve been different, the timing was all wrong.
What have you learned about your body that you love and why?
In the film Amelie they spout a fact about how there are more neurological pathways in the brain than there are grains of sand on the earth. If that is true, I think that’s pretty incredible. Just the brain in general to be honest is amazing. Aside from what makes me physically different, everything that makes me who I am and how I move is all inside this boney case [taps on her noggin].
When's the last time you cried and why?
Recently a friend rang me up to tell me some bad news that they had been keeping to themselves for a few months. They explained what had happened and when we’d hung up the conversation I felt so guilty from how obnoxious and loud I'd been when the thing in question was happening. Like, my friend was going through something really life-changing, and there I was barking orders about wanting to go to McDonalds. I know I didn’t know what was happening at the time, but I felt so guilty afterwards. I welled up a bit.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My alarm clock [chuckles]. Honestly though, the knowledge that nothing will get done if I don’t haul my ass out of there and start doing it. To make that easier I motivate myself to get over the initial hurdle of wanting to sleep for the next few hours. I have a playlist with high tempo songs and positive lyrics. I listen to Welcome to New York as I hop in the shower and I keep my music on the whole way to campus. My rationale is that I can engage my brain when I’m in class – but I'll let my body wake up first.
What's one rejection that worked out for the best?
I submitted a short story last summer and I got a bit cocky because it was “only” for a student-led journal. Run by students, it’s for students. So, thinking I had a pretty good shot of getting in because the pool of applicants would only be from Queens, I didn’t really try with my submission. I definitely could’ve taken it more seriously. Even though I didn’t hear from them for a while, when I got the cold-hard rejection months later I was disappointed. It was a bit of lesson to not sneer at opportunities wherever they come from. You should treat everything with the same amount of respect and weight of importance. It brought me back down to earth a little bit and reminded me to work hard on my writing.
If you had all the money in the world, what would you be doing with your time?
I think that money does kind of change people. If you go from having not very much to a lot it will change your view of life and how people see you. I would still want to finish my studies, I try not to see doing my degree as just helping me to get a better job. But beyond that, I’m genuinely interested in studying languages, literature and cultures. Not necessarily to apply to a professional setting, but for myself. I’ve always admired those who are widely read, well-spoken and speak passionately about a subject that inspires them.
The money would let me have more freedom for where I could live. I might even have bought a house to get on that property ladder. I like to think I’d invest some of the money and pay off my parents’ debts. Build them a house for sure - I think that’s something a lot of people want to do. It's a sense of wanting to pay them back. Parents normally don't expect to be reimbursed, but we as children still want to. Your mother carried you because she wanted to. Everything’s been done out of sense of duty and love without an expectation of reimbursement, which makes giving back even more satisfying.
What are your top three greatest fears?
· Becoming stagnant
If you could give one gift to humanity what would it be and why?
I'd level the playing field in terms of opportunities for people. I find myself thinking a lot about the opportunities I’ve had and will likely be able to have in the future. I know that based on my race, nationality, my social class (for lack of a better word). I’m gonna have advantages that other people won’t have and this particularly affects kids. The system’s not very fair. People claim they’re blind to these kind of things but they’re not. I’d want for kids to have a level playing field that would give everyone opportunities regardless of their background. Like an ideal meritocracy.
What would be your death row meal?
I’m going all out with three courses and a drink.
Starters: The shitty vegetable soup from primary school, with tinned carrots and vegetables in broth – salty and delicious.
Mains: Big Italian plate split into four sections. Stuffed crust Hawaiian pizza, my mamas spaghetti bolognaise (tomatoey, juicy and tender: I’ve tried her recipe but it's not as good – you feel loved after you eat it), really decadent macaroni and cheese and popcorn shrimp from Yo Sushi. Can I have a side of avocado toast?
Desert: Slutty brownies, with salted caramel sauce.
Drink: Pepsi Max, but if I'm allowed alcohol I'd guzzle as many piña coladas as I could manage.
If you could only listen to one song and read one book for the rest of your life what would it be?
Song: We didn’t start the fire by Billy Joel - fun song to jam out to and I could never get sick of it.
Book: Harry Potter series - it’s a basic answer, but it’s got all the things I like: magic, friendship, coming of age, good triumphing over evil, worldbuilding, and it's written by an inspiring female author!
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I’ll be 27 and my grandmother told me that was her favourite year. In the modern mindset maybe I'll have a long-term partner, but no kids so not a lot of dependents. But, when my grandmother was 27 she was married with a child and another one of the way - this gives me hope. There's a lot of narratives about the best years of your life being before you're tied down, but she managed to enjoy herself at that age.
I will hopefully have something published or in the process of being published. I will be financially independent or on my way to being so. I will have experienced more things than I have now and I will have opened myself up to more opportunities. I'll definitely worry less about what I have/ have not done. So, I'll be in a good place.
If only one person reads your book what impact would you want it to have?
I’m not going to pretend it’s this immensely moral fable, but I would love two takeaways for this person. Firstly, I'd want them to be able to tell how much I care about my book. I hope they would be able to see it wasn’t just a project for me, but at some points a coping mechanism when things were difficult. Also, I’d want them to see the realness beyond the fiction. For them to think these reactions and characters are believable.
If they were inspired to be creative and think hey I want to do that too. Then, went out and tried to write or create anything that would be the dream. Personally, a lot of my creative inspiration came from authors. Everybody who was successful was inspired by somebody. Virtually everybody had to start as an unknown with some word vomit, convoluted flow charts and drawings that don’t make sense. So, if I could help one person onto the ladder that would be pretty cool.
Can't wait for Lucy's novel? In the meantime check out her blog 'On the Luce'.
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All my love, Sam