Advice for My Younger Writing Self
Posted on 03 April 2013
In “Dear Younger Writing Self,” Allison Amend advises the writer she used to be not to worry so much when it comes to her writing career. Here’s a snippet:
At the moment, you are worrying that you are not as good as the other people in your MFA program. True, most of them have more writing experience. And yes, some are more talented than you. Some will be more successful than you. Sometimes success will not equate with talent. Life isn’t fair, which is as hard to take now as it was when you were five and your brother got the bigger cookie. But I promise you that you are not the worst writer among them either. And, fifteen years later, half of them will have retired their proverbial pens while you’re still scribbling away. (And no, they did not let you in because they felt sorry for you for being overweight. They liked your work).
- You will never forget that writing room you had at college or the fact that it had no internet connection whatsoever. Cherish it while it lasts.
- You deserved it. Why did you worry you didn’t deserve it?
- On the other hand, awards and prizes don’t mean as much as you think they do. Stop putting so much stock into them.
- Writing with the cat Edith Wharton as company will instill in you a lifelong fondness for black-and-white cats. Just understand that the cat you one day adopt will not be as self-possessed or as dignified as Edith was. He’ll still nap next to you while you write, though.
- Your first novel is not what you think it is. And that’s okay.
- The years you lived alone in the old apartment by the lake will be a period when you had relatively more time and mental space to write. Use it wisely.
- Believe it or not, you will one day be able to write in coffee shops.
- That frustrating writing workshop will lead to an excellent one. Just keep showing up.
- Go to more local readings. A lot more.
- After you leave a certain writing group, a woman will email you and ask to meet for coffee, and you will consider canceling because of the storm. Go.
- You’re not going to get that grant either time you apply, but life goes on.
- When a particular agent rejects your novel on a snowy day, don’t despair entirely. You’ll turn that moment into a paying article. The same goes for the time you considered quitting writing and for that bizarre literary magazine rejection.
- After the workshop for your wig shop story, do not look back as you leave the room. Just keep going.
- When you go to AWP and decide to change your departure plans, do not convince yourself that traveling back on Greyhound will be “completely fine.” It won’t.
- When you go to Bread Loaf, pass on that last drink at the final cocktail party. Trust me on this.
- When, late one night, you get the crazy idea to submit to a few story collection contests, don’t waste any time talking yourself out of it. Instead, get straight to work.
- Don’t spend three full days after you learn your collection won a prize wondering if they meant to call someone else. They really did mean to call you.
- The book publication process will stress you out more than all your worries about ever publishing a book.
- Why are you thinking about publishing books when you could be writing?
- At the same time, don’t be so damn shy about promoting your collection once it’s published.
- There is no final destination for a writing career. Ever. Not even a book publication. You’re in this for the long haul, so enjoy it.
- Keep writing and reading and attending those writing groups. It might not always seem like it, but you really are on the way to building the writing life you wanted. Keep going.
In case you’re wondering, I still consider my writing self to be young — so I look forward to the advice I’ll have for myself in another decade or so.
What advice do you have for your younger writer self?
Photo: Christ Fritz