Sussu Laaksonen’s writing career began in her home country, Finland. She has worked in Finnish television and film and translated for companies like Google and Netflix. In 2020, just before the Pandemic hit, Sussu moved to Amsterdam with her partner and cat Honey. Now, Sussu works as a consultant for film and television and is writing a book of essays. Before she became a teacher at IWC, she took online and in-person classes at the Collective “to form a community in Amsterdam of people that share the same passion for writing.”
Hi Sussu, it’s very exciting to have you as a new teacher at the IWC. What do you like about teaching and how would you describe your style as a teacher?
Oh, I love teaching. I have taught during my whole writing career: screenwriters and other kinds of writers, and also people who treat writing as a hobby. I really believe that everybody has a voice. I’ve seen it with my students – worlds open up within them as a result of writing. At IWC, I like that the exercises push you to discover your own voice and explore new ways of being on the page, because I think we can always surprise ourselves.
I’m curious about how your teaching influences your writing process.
It reminds me of the fun. As a teacher, you are always seeing a reflection of your own process – the joy and the frustration. It’s also very nice to be in a writing community and to interact with people that like writing.
What comes easiest for you in your writing practice? And what’s the hardest thing?
What comes easiest for me is probably the ‘playing on the page’ and improvisational writing. I throw away a ton of what I write. Not because I consider it bad writing, but because I see it as part of the process. It’s important to not be afraid of the blank page and to just be able to write.
The hardest thing for me, particularly with long-form writing, which is what I am doing now, is keeping the faith. It takes a certain kind of audacity, to really believe in yourself and in what you are doing.
In terms of your work, what are you most proud of? Anything that we would have seen?
Most of my writing is in Finnish, so you wouldn’t have seen it. A piece of work I am really proud of is a short film script I wrote called Cataract (runtime 9 minutes). I wrote the script and submitted it to the Berlin Film Festival Talent Campus. The program mentor, film director Walter Salles, picked it up. I was paired with a director, Sainath Choudhury. It was a truly beautiful experience to make this film and I am very proud of it.
How is it for you to write both in English and in Finnish? Not being an English native speaker, I often feel an impostor syndrome when I write in English.
When I am feeling my way into a story, and doing a lot of free writing and handwriting, I write in a total mixture of languages. Because I know in the end, I can always output it into the language that it has to be in – that’s part of the editing process. Language can be a tool in that initial creative process. Same with movement, for example, in my case.
How do you incorporate movement in your writing practice?
Movement is my way of working through my performance anxiety with writing, which I think we all feel. There is very interesting research on creativity that shows this. They have done experiments where they asked people to try to learn a new concept and pull something from the air. The brain does a better job at remembering a new concept that way. So, I do pretty silly things in my writing room sometimes. I might be crawling on the floor, or be upside down, because I feel like I need a new perspective.
What is one piece of advice you have for writers?
Do not be afraid to do something wrong. It’s all part of the process of discovering what you have to say. Everything you write is a step. You just have to keep taking the steps. There is nothing mystical about it, really.
Author: Beatriz Ramos