You can’t swing an antique typewriter on the Internet without hitting a writer giving advice to their younger self.
But it’s not a purely pointless cliche. Writing is a skill-set as much as it is a Mysterious Talent Breathed Into Our Ears By Angels. Stick with it and you learn. What you learn is idiosyncratic but might be of use to younger writers who are stumbling in ways similar to your own hilarious youthful pratfalls.
Heck, reflecting on what you think you might have learned can actually be the moment you learn it.
Writers digest considered it an activity worth putting into a writing exercise.
Dearyoungme.com thinks it merits its own social media site.
And Oneyearnovel.com recently used it explicitly to advise young up-and-comers.
Tl;dr… I’m jumping on that bandwagon.
So, without further ado, seven things I’d tell younger self if I met him and he let me get a word in edgeways…
- Don’t wait. Second post on this blog pretty much explains this one. If you love writing, prioritize it. I chose a more “practical” route, and it vanished like a soap bubble.
- Write a little every day. Don’t tell yourself you’ll put off writing until you have “enough time” to devote to it. You’ll never have much more time to write than you do right now. And you need the ongoing routine and practice to improve. So write even, a little, as often as you can.
- Finish things. Again, it’s how you learn. I used to abandon a story whenever it went awry. Took me ages to learn I was mucking up my starts because I hardly ever saw them in the context of a completed story where it was more obvious that I was generally starting stories too early.
- Perfect is for saps. I say “awry,” but I used to abandon stories because I knew I couldn’t make them perfect. I used to not submit stories because I knew they weren’t perfect. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” You’re as good as you are, and you’ll get better if you don’t give up for want of perfection.
- Don’t worry about rules. Patricia Wrede says this best on her Six Impossible Things blog.
- Realize that doubt is just weather. God I’ve struggled with self doubt. Given up on writing. Given up on individual stories. I’ve gone back to stories that wracked me with so much doubt that I pitched them into the bin, and found stuff in them that was so good it surprised me. Self doubt isn’t truth: it’s weather. It will pass. Wait it out.
- Mind your health. I didn’t. But writers aren’t disembodied brains, and you will eventually sabotage everything you do if you neglect your physical well-being.
So, that’s my seven. Happy to hear yours below…