What advice would you give your younger self? It’s an interesting question to think about, what advice would I give? I was reminded of this idea when I came across Writer Unboxed’s, “Letter to my Aspiring Writer Self.” School now in full-swing for many, I am finding myself thinking back to when I was starting college (way back in 1999….), what kind of letter would I have benefited from receiving? Especially the creative-writing part of me?
Well, one way to find out what I’d say…
Hey Allison –
It is amazing. These days I can’t always remember something I said, thought, or did, the day before, but I still remember some of those feelings and thoughts running through your head now. I remember, sometimes with painful clarity, the mistakes you are going to make,. I remember those molehills you are going to turn into mountains. I know the mountains you are going to stubbornly pretend are nothing more than rolling hills and therefore have a much harder time of because you face them unprepared.
There is so much, so very much, that I want to say to you. I wish I could save you some of the heartache and pain, but I know that some of it you just have to go through. Cliched though it may be, those trials will make you stronger. I know that trying to spare you the struggle will also take away those moments of joyful discovery — and if I’ve learned anything from my fantasy/science-fiction/historical-speculation reading anything you are warned of will simply be replaced by similar lessons in different forms.
But, I can tell you that by 33 you aren’t going to have it all figured out. Life continues to be one forever changing mystery. Remember how you used to tell your 12-year old self, and your 15-year old self, and now your 18-year-old self that grown-ups don’t really have it figured out? Well, yes, that’s true. You’re right. I can also give you that tantalizing and infuriating teaser that you never know what is around the corner. Life has this interesting way of taking unexpected twists and turns, all you can do is make the best decisions you can with the information you have, and try to not hold too tightly onto any regrets. As of this moment there are things I do wish I could have done differently, but nothing I full-hardheartedly regret.
What I wanted to do though was to speak to you, the writer part of you. Right now you’re riding high on how awesome a writer you are. I assure you, you’ll face some reality-checks and you’ll get slammed to the ground a few times. Don’t let this fool you — you are an awesome writer, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for polishing and for improvement. At the core you have what it takes, I believe you do… but when you let yourself get too confident you tend to slack. You get lazy, and the results are not pretty… It’s a habit we’re still trying to break, but pay attention to it. And, more importantly, pay attention to what you can learn from those moments of crushing defeat. Because if you just chalk it up to “I got lazy” (partial truth) you wont see those places that you can stretch and grown — even more apparent in your rough work than your revised work.
Speaking of revision… let me give you one little final piece of advice, the one thing I really really wish I had known years ago.
It isn’t easy. There are going to be people who tear your writing to shreds, and there will be moments when you just want to give up, when you don’t want to push the “muse” because you’re afraid it might run away forever. Don’t give in to that. Write. Write even when you have no story flowing. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that by next year your writing is going to look totally different — but it will. And the only way you can really improve with the shifts you’ll undertake, is if you are willing to revise. Nothing is perfect when it first falls to the page. You have to be willing to struggle with it, to write more, to push yourself to find ways to keep going when you have no clue where the story is going.
Don’t give up. Don’t mistake those momentary burn-out moments for a sign that you aren’t cut out for it. Remember this enthusiasm you carry now, remember those moments where you knew in your heart and soul that this was what you wanted to do in your life. Hold that, don’t let it stop you from trying other things, but hold that passion close.
You can do it.
And.. what an interesting exercise. As with all advice-giving, this letter is talking as much to 33-year-old me as it is to 18-year-old me.
Just write. You can do it.