Dear New, Young, Passionate, Painfully Aspiring Writer Self:
I am looking at you with great tenderness. Your passion for your craft, your hunger for publication, your commitment to continue to try makes my heart swell with pride. It is not easy, what you’re doing, writing, or rather, writing with the full intent to publish. It’s easy to write if you are doing it only for yourself. It’s only a joy, then, a secret pleasure, a tattoo on your inner thigh that you share only with your most intimate associates.
Writing for publication is a much more dangerous and challenging undertaking. It means risking your ego and your standing in the community. People don’t understand your desire, even those you expect to understand, like reader friends and your librarian. Oh, I know how you’ve learned to dread that question at gatherings. You say you are a writer and someone says with excitement, “Are you published?” You have to say no, and watch their eyes dim and their attention stray.
But you will not always have to say no. If you stay the course, you will be published. For now, you go ahead and claim the title of writer, because you are a writer. You write. You put in the hours of study and practice, over and over, whenever you can fit it in. You do it even though no one does particularly understand or even believe that you can ever break into the hallowed company of Authors. I am so proud of you. Keep it up.
A few other things that will help you stay the course: pay more attention to what you are doing right than what you are doing wrong. Time, reading, and practice will heal most of your flaws, but no one can do what you do as well as you do it, so stick with that. Polish it, explore it, love it. That’s where your voice is, in the things you love and do well.
Keep reading a ton. People tell you that writing will corrupt your process, but that’s how you came to writing in the first place, isn’t it? You read, more than anyone you know, always. Keep doing that, and don’t just read in the areas where you write. Read everything—articles and essays and poems and books of fiction and non-fiction. Read crap and read classics. Read genre and read literary fiction. Just read. It teaches and guides new writers better than any other single thing.
Keep your eye on the prize. You’re going to keep trying on hats until you find the one that fits, and once you do, your life is going to change in such big ways that you will never believe it could be your life. You will eat a meal in New York City with an editor. You will see your book on the shelves of your local bookstore. You will get letters from readers who love your work more than any other writer out there. Honor her, that reader, with your will to stick with it.
One more thing: don’t be afraid of editors and agents. They are busy, but they are always looking for the writer they connect with, the one they can publish, the one they adore. Some of them, over time, will become your friends for life. Some of them will only make you crazy, but this is the great secret: editors and agents are your equal. You are all a corner in the great triangle of publishing. Don’t be intimidated.
Finally, you are more powerful than you know. Have faith in yourself, and the work, and trust it to take you where you want to do.
Your older, wiser, more experienced self
Want to read more letters from other writers to their younger selves? Check out http://soyoureawriter.blogspot.com/
(click on covers to read more)
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11 thoughts on “Letters to my new writer self”
A very compassionate and passionate post! I know that dreaded question (“Are you published yet?”) all too well, and agree that you need perseverance. Tons of it! 🙂
Funny how the mysterious processes of agents and editors evoke a feeling of fear in us. I know I’ve felt it (and mostly avoided them so far!) But seeing them as busy professionals looking for new voices makes them more accessible, doesn’t it?
I agree, even those we think would understand our “quest” don’t seem to get it.
I love that. You are more powerful than you know. I think too often we limit ourselves with doubts when we really just need to embrace our desires and press forward like the world depends on them. =)
Anybody who writes is a writer…and can claim that title. So many think they don’t earn the right until someone deems them “writer,” but it’s important to believe the title is yours first!
time, reading, and practice will fix most of your flaws…dang that was a priceless line! happy to have found your blog through the hop!!
What an inspiring letter! It is strangely embarrassing to say you’re an unpublished writer, but why? Most beginning actors don’t instantly get cast in a Hollywood blockbuster. We should be proud of following our creative path, published or not!
“You are more powerful than you know” is a powerful statement. We all need to remember that, at every stage of our journey.
Elizabeth Hein – Scribbling in the Storage Room
I think sometimes, we forget that we are still writers, even before we have been published. It’s also good to remind ourselves how much our heart yearns for pride and the support of readers. Thanks for sharing a heartfelt and inspiring letter.
Well said as usual, Barbara! Thank you.
It is easier to write only for ourselves. Once publication becomes a goal, writing becomes a thousand times more difficult.
I hated it when I would tell people I’m a writer and they would ask if I’m published. Having to say “no” was almost like a punch to the gut. Even when I did publish flash fiction I was reluctant to call myself an author until I published an ebook.
I love your letter. And the last sentence is perfect! 🙂
Very touching, and telling. This brought a tear to my eye. I loved it. Thank you.