I'm in a fabulous online group of writers that talks about all things writing. What genres are climbing the ladders, when to nudge an agent after they've had your MS for what seems like 2939343 years. Basically, anything you want to know about writing, this group talks about. The lovely Carrie Butler from So, You're a Writer... decided to give back in the coolest way possible - offering up the stories of writers. There's really nothing I love more than talking about writing, so when she offered me a chance to tell my story, I jumped at the chance. She'll be compiling all of the entries into a free ebook for mass consumption. I'll update with links to where you can download that when I can!
Anyway, I should probably get to the point, right?
Dear Past Me,
Right now, you probably have your laptop on one leg, a book open on the other. Your hair is a mess, your glasses are slipping down your nose and there's a steaming mug of coffee on the table next to you. You don't realize it right now - but the more things change, the more things stay the same. Ten years later, you'll still be doing all of those things, only with a little more money and a few books under your belt.
There are so many things I wish you knew when you first started writing. This journey isn't an easy one. It's incredibly difficult, lonely and heartbreaking. You will cry more over writing-related issues than you'll ever do for a boy. That's because you were born with writing in your veins. You never stood a chance. You always felt the pull, even as a child, you just didn't have the tools to create what you wanted. That's why you immersed yourself in everything book-related. That decision is the best one you could have made. It's transformed who you are and the way you see the world (through literary lenses). But this letter isn't about reading - that has always come natural to you.
This is about words. Stringing them together to create stories and worlds that live inside your head. This is about the voices that talk to you at night, (believe it or not, you're not crazy) this is about bringing to life the magic words give you. So, here are few things I wish I would have known earlier.
1. Writing is hard. REALLY FREAKING HARD. Don't for one minute think that just because something came easily to you for a minute - you've finally figured it out. You haven't. You'll always think "maybe this will be easier this time..." Forget it. It won't be. Just get it into your head that writing will forever be one of the hardest things you'll ever do. But it's worth every painful minute. It's worth the tears, the blood, (oh yes, there will be blood) and the sweat. Nothing every truly meaningful in life is acquired easily. That's why it feels so damn good when you get it right.
2. For every negative jerk-face out there trying to pull you down - there's two positive supporters coming to your aid. The world is getting harsher, harder and more negative every day that passes. In every area of life. It's just the way things are. But it's so important not to forget that good people and humanity still exist. There will always be people willing to help you when you need it. Even when you don't need it, they'll be there in the shadow offering anything they can. Take them up on these offers. Allow them into your life and hold onto them with an ironclad grasp. They'll become your life boat when things get hard.
3. The publishing world today is conglomeration of options. Some people are staunchly for this, staunchly against it and some reside in the middle. There will be people who will berate you, look down on you, even loathe you for making the decision you make. But there will also be people who look up to you, admire you for your decision and follow in your footsteps because you made them believe. The most important thing you can do for yourself when it comes to deciding how you want to pursue publication is to look deep inside yourself and decide what's important to YOU. Not what's important to your family, friends, society or other writers. Don't listen to the whispers of people who are making it on either side. Don't listen to the nay-sayers on either side. Listen to your heart. It will never lead you astray.
4. Success. It's amazing, wonderful, terrible and gut-wrenching. There's absolutely no way for you to prepare for failure or success. There is only dealing with it as it comes. And sometimes, it will knock you on your ass. You won't know right from left and you'll wonder what the hell you're doing here in the first place. It's important to remember WHERE and WHY you started. You didn't start writing because you knew you'd sell a million copies. You didn't start writing because you thought you'd be relegated to the lowest of the writing ranks where no one knows your name or what you write. You started writing because you LOVE it. Because it's as essential to you as breathing is. Because even if no one read a word of it - you'd still do it to keep yourself sane. You MUST figure out what success means to YOU and only YOU because if you don't, it will drive you freaking crazy. You'll be comparing yourself to everyone and everything ALL THE TIME. It's exhausting and a drain on your energy and creative talents. You know the old saying, "there's always someone better and worse than you?" It's the truth. In everything you do. But THEY ARE NOT YOU and YOU ARE NOT THEM. You'll never be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. But neither will any other writer. This is probably one of the hardest lessons to learn because society places such an emphasis on winning, succeeding, being the best. And it's just not a viable option all the time. Stay true to yourself and always be humble.
5. The easiest and hardest lesson in world of writing is simple: Believe in yourself. I won't lie - I hardly follow this piece of advice because it's harder than actually writing. Believing in the story you want to tell, the way you want to deliver it, the words you put on paper (or the screen) and the ability to execute it is the single hardest thing you'll ever do. It's in your nature to feel like you can't do it. It's too hard. You're not good enough. You just don't have what it takes. These will be commonplace for you but it's equally important to drag yourself up from the ashes and rise to the task. It won't happen all the time, and you'll fall many, many times. But you will always get up. You know why? Because this is what you were meant to do with your life. You've known it since you were a little girl. And when you're meant to do something with your life - belief is only half the equation.
There's so much more that goes into being a writer than I can explain in a single blog post, but these are the most important. These are the things you need to remember for the rest of your life because they'll keep you sane. They'll keep you from quitting the most important thing in your life. Trust the words because someday... you'll be the one writing them. <3
Love, Future Me.